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J Contam Hydrol. 2001 Dec 15;53(3-4):269-84.

Microbiological analysis of multi-level borehole samples from a contaminated groundwater system.

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NERC-CEH Institute of Freshwater Ecology, Ambleside, Cumbria, UK.


A range of bacteriological, geochemical process-related and molecular techniques have been used to assess the microbial biodegradative potential in groundwater contaminated with phenol and other tar acids. The contaminant plume has travelled 500 m from the pollutant source over several decades. Samples were obtained from the plume using a multi-level sampler (MLS) positioned in two boreholes (boreholes 59 and 60) which vertically transected two areas of the plume. Activity of the microbial community, as represented by phenol degradation potential and ability to utilise a range of substrates, was found to be influenced by the plume. Phenol degradation potential appeared to be influenced more by the concentration of the contaminants than the total bacterial cell numbers. However, in the areas of highest phenol concentration, the depression of cell numbers clearly had an effect. The types of bacteria present were assessed by culture and DNA amplification by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Bacterial groups or processes associated with major geochemical processes, such as methanogenesis, sulphate reduction and denitrification, that have the potential to drive contaminant degradation, were detected at various borehole levels. A comparative molecular analysis of the microbial community between samples obtained from the MLS revealed the microbial community was diverse. The examination of microbial activity complemented those results obtained through chemical analysis, and when combined with hydrological data, showed that MLS samples provided a realistic profile of plume effects and could be related to the potential for natural attenuation of the site.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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