Revealed: The bacteria eating the ground from under our feet
IT IS no wonder the roads of Scunthorpe are peppered with potholes.
That is because boffins have revealed residents in the town are having the ground eaten from under their feet by greedy bacteria.
Scunthorpe is built on tonnes of iron ore that experts believe could supply the steel-making industry for 50 years.
But scientists say a newly-discovered bacteria called Friopolla is feasting on the ore.
Now experts from the Geology Society say the ore will be eaten away in 20 years.
A spokesman for the society said: "Our research would back up reports that the town is in danger of falling apart."
A spokesman for the Department of Civil Engineering (DoCE) said: "I think Scunthorpe has maybe 15 or 20 years left. I don't think it will have too much longer than that.
"It has already lasted since 1937, but eventually there will be nothing left but a rust stain."
The bacteria – from the family Hematite Skumus – was discovered in rust collected from disused quarries by a team of scientists in 1991.
The rust is home to a host of micro-organisms from which Friopolla was isolated and found to be the one eating the iron.
Its destructive tendencies mean the rust will eventually disintegrate into a fine powder.
The DoCE spokesman said: "The rust is made from a composition of different micro-organisms and there is one particular bacteria which particularly likes eating iron.
"We have now identified the one which particularly likes eating iron.
"To explain it in human terms, not every type of bacteria has the same taste, so if you present different people with a plate of chocolate and cheese some may prefer one and some the other.
"This is a type of bacteria which particularly likes eating iron.
"Nature is very clever, and everything is recalled eventually. Nature makes it, and nature claims it back."
Iron ore was first discovered in North Lincolnshire in the 1860s and led to the start of steel-making in Scunthorpe in 1890.
It was mined locally until the 1960s but the industry then started using better- quality ore from abroad.