Blockage-devouring microbes solve pipeline problems, a Finnish company claims – Expert: “sounds quite good” (Helsingin Sanomat 15.11.2017)

Blockage-devouring microbes solve pipeline problems, a Finnish company claims – Expert: “sounds quite good” (Helsingin Sanomat 15.11.2017)

The microbe solution that is sold to housing co-operatives contains five different strains of bacteria, which are claimed to remove grease, protein, starch and cellulose from pipes.

Helsingin Sanomat 15.11.2017 Noona Bäckgren

FINNISH microbiology start up company ProtectPipe wants to revolutionize housing co-operatives’ pipe maintenance. According to the company, the microbe solution they have created, called Putkipöpö, can postpone the need for a pipe repair by as much as a decade. The solution’s secret is in live bacteria that are said to eat the pipes clean of waste.

“The microbes in the product use organic waste as an energy source and break it down to water and carbon dioxide. This way the waste does not have a chance of building up in the pipes, and pipe blockages are not formed”, ProtectPipe’s Administrative Director Hannu Keränen says.

KERÄNEN says that the main cause for pipeline issues is hydrogen sulfide, a gas that occasionally rises from the kitchen drain, emitting a rotten egg smell. Hydrogen sulfide corrodes cast iron drainpipes.

“If the drainpipes are clean and they have no organic waste, no hydrogen sulfide is formed to prematurely corrode the pipes. The need for a pipe repair is postponed by decades, if the pipes are kept clean biologically”, Keränen says.

He compares the use of the microbe solution in the pipes to dental care. “Drainpipes are like teeth. If organic waste is not removed from the surfaces, they start to smell bad and form cavities.”

ProtectPipe’s microbe solution for housing co-operatives’ purposes contains five different strains of bacteria, which are said to remove grease, protein, starch and cellulose from the pipeline.

THE PROBLEM is that there are no scientific studies about the effectiveness of the microbe solution. The product is already in the market nonetheless. At this moment the product is being tested in six housing co-operatives for five months. The results from the first laboratory tests are being expected.

“The effectiveness of the product has been easy to prove by filming the pipes before and after the solution’s use and by verifying the absence of hydrogen sulfide with the world’s most sensitive hydrogen sulfide meter: the human nose. So far we have not found it necessary to invest large sums of money and commission scientific studies about the matter.”

ProtectPipe is planning to extend its operations internationally, and one of the key targets is China. This has, according to Keränen, made generating studies timely. “In Chine, research data is required.”

Ari Lehtonen, a lecturer of inorganic chemistry in the University of Turku, finds the idea of waste-eating pipe microbes sensible.

“Enzymes, which are produced by microbes, have been used for cleaning for a long time. The idea of using the whole microbe for cleaning sounds quite good”, he says.

According to Lehtonen, some organic materials, such as hair, contain a lot of sulfur. “They can produce hydrogen sulfide when they remain in the pipeline for a long time.”

HPAC-ASSEMBLER Jari Koski from Uudenmaan LVI-huolto points out that hydrogen sulfide is not the only cause of problems.

“The calcium oxide that is added to water corrodes drainpipes, and cast iron pipes wear out when water flows through them for years. The joints of copper pipes break down”, he says.

Koski notes that microbes do not repair pipes that are already in a bad condition. “If a pipe has already been broken by corrosion, it is best to rely on cured-in-place pipes.”

Koski gives a tip to those struggling with pipe blockages.

“Home drain cleaner products that have 10% of blockage-attacking sodium hydroxide, are nonsensical. I buy sodium hydroxide in crystals. They keep drainpipes unclogged. If there is a blockage in the pipes, the products should not however be used.”

Sodium hydroxide is also known as caustic soda. Alcaic and corrosive caustic soda removes soap, hair and beard hair from the pipes.

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