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J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol. 1997 Feb-Mar;18(2-3):177-88.

Intrinsic bioremediation in a solvent-contaminated alluvial groundwater.

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  • 1Environmental Projects Laboratories, Merck & Co, Inc, Elkton, VA 22827, USA.

Abstract

An industrial site contaminated with a mixture of volatile organic compounds in its subsurface differed from previously reported locations in that the contamination consisted of a mixture of chlorinated, brominated, and non-halogenated aromatic and aliphatic solvents in an alluvial aquifer. The source area was adjacent to a river. Of the contaminants present in the aquifer, benzene, toluene, and chlorobenzene (BTC) were of primary concern. Studies of the physical, chemical, and microbiological characteristics of site groundwater were conducted. The studies concentrated on BTC, but also addressed the fate of the other aquifer VOCs. Gas chromatographic analyses performed on laboratory microcosms demonstrated that subsurface microorganisms were capable of BTC degradation. Mineralization of BTC was demonstrated by the release of 14CO2 from radiolabelled BTC. In the field, distribution patterns of nutrients and electron acceptors were consistent with expression of in situ microbial metabolic activity: methane, conductivity, salinity and o-phosphate concentrations were all positively correlated with contaminant concentration; while oxidation-reduction potential, nitrate, dissolved oxygen and sulfate concentrations were negatively correlated. Total aerobes, aerotolerant anaerobes, BTC-specific degraders, and acridine orange direct microscopic microorganism counts were strongly and positively correlated with field contaminant concentrations. The relative concentrations of benzene and toluene were lower away from the core of the plume compared to the less readily metabolized compound, chlorobenzene. Hydrodynamic modeling of electron-acceptor depletion conservatively estimated that 450 kg of contaminant have been removed from the subsurface yearly. Models lacking a biodegradation term predicted that 360 kg of contaminant would reach the river annually, which would result in measurable contaminant concentrations. River surveillance, however, has only rarely detected these compounds in the sediment and then only at trace concentrations. Thus, the combination of field modeling, laboratory studies, and site surveillance data confirm that significant in situ biodegradation of the contaminants has occurred. These studies establish the presence of intrinsic bioremediation of groundwater contaminants in this unusual industrial site subsurface habitat.

PMID:
9134765
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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