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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2014;21(15):9028-35. doi: 10.1007/s11356-013-1952-y. Epub 2013 Jul 5.

Natural and enhanced biodegradation of propylene glycol in airport soil.

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Dipartimento di Ingegneria Chimica, dei Materiali e della Produzione Industriale, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Napoli, Italy,


Aircraft de-icing fluids (ADF) are a source of water and soil pollution in airport sites. Propylene glycol (PG) is a main component in several commercial formulations of ADFs. Even though PG is biodegradable in soil, seasonal overloads may result in occasional groundwater contamination. Feasibility studies for the biostimulation of PG degradation in soil have been carried out in soil slurries, soil microcosms and enrichment cultures with and without the addition of nutrients (N and P sources, oligoelements), alternative electron acceptors (nitrate, oxygen releasing compounds) and adsorbents (activated carbon). Soil samples have been taken from the contaminated area of Gardermoen Airport Oslo. Under aerobic conditions and in the absence of added nutrients, no or scarce biomass growth is observed and PG degradation occurs by maintenance metabolism at constant removal rate by the original population of PG degraders. With the addition of nutrient, biomass exponential growth enhances aerobic PG degradation also at low temperatures (4 ° C) that occur at the high season of snowmelt. Anaerobic PG degradation without added nutrients still proceeds at constant rate (i.e. no biomass growth) and gives rise to reduced fermentation product (propionic acid, reduced Fe and Mn, methane). The addition of nitrate does not promote biomass growth but allows full PG mineralization without reduced by-products. Further exploitation on the field is necessary to fully evaluate the effect of oxygen releasing compounds and adsorbents.

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