Life at a pH above 13?

Steve Firth steve at firthcom.demon.co.uk
Sat Apr 8 14:00:50 EST 1995


Several years ago while on an industrial placement in a cotton mill, I 
was involved in cleaning the settlement ponds used to separate cotton 
flock from effluent. The effluent was "Black liquor" a mixture of sodium 
hydroxide (2M-4M) and soap, used to clean oils from the raw cotton in 
large autoclaves (pH invariably >13). The effluent was warm (37-45C) and 
the colur intense enough to ensure that daylight was excluded from the 
bottom of the pond (about 2m deep).

As part of the cleaning, we emptied the pond and shovelled out the 
detritus. Surprisingly in this aggressive environment there were 
considerable numbers of worms which were white and simlar in size to 
common earthworms - about 5-15cm. The worms were evidently alive, and 
the pond was constructed from engineering brick and hydraulic concrete, 
including the base.

Does anyone have any observation on whether these animals are surviving 
at this pH, or were they simply migrants in the process of dying? In the 
event that anyone out there has an interest in life under extreme 
conditions I could point them toward the site (in the UK).

.......................................................................
Stephen Firth                                           Matthew: 27,  5
steve at firthcom.demon.co.uk                               Judges:  7, 17
CIS: 100023,3414




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