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An assessment of natural biotransformation of petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents at an aquifer plume transect.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
0169-7722
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
49
Issue
1-2
Pages
151–169
Identifiers
PMID: 11351513
Source
Medline

Abstract

Field biogeochemical characterization and laboratory microcosm studies were performed to assess the potential for future biotransformation of trichloroethylene (TCE) and toluene in a plume containing petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, MI. In situ terminal electron accepting processes (TEAPs), contaminant composition and microbial phylogeny were studied at a plume transect 100 m downgradient of the source. The presence of reduced electron acceptors, relevant microbial communities, and elevated dissolved methane and carbon dioxide concentrations at the transect, as well as downgradient accumulation of BTEX metabolites and dechlorination products, indicated that past or current reductive dechlorination at the transect was likely driven by BTEX biodegradation in the methanogenic zone. However, TCE and toluene mineralization in sediment-groundwater microcosms without added electron acceptors did not exceed 5% during 300 days of incubation and was nearly invariant with original sediment TEAP, even following amendments of nitrogen and phosphorus. Mineralization rates were on the order of 0.0015-0.03 mumol/g day. After 8 months, microcosms showed evidence of methanogenesis, but CH4 and CO2 production arose from the degradation of contaminants other than toluene. Cis-dichloroethylene was observed in only one methanogenic microcosm after more than 500 days. It appears likely that spatially and temporally dynamic redox zonation at the plume transect will prevent future sustained reductive dehalogenation of highly chlorinated solvents, for during the course of a year, the predominant TEAP at the highly contaminated water table shifted from methanogenesis to iron- and sulfate-reduction. It is recommended that biotransformation studies combine considerations of long-term, spatially relevant changes in redox zonation with laboratory-scale studies of electron donor utilization and cometabolic substrate transformation to yield a more accurate assessment of natural bioattenuation of specific pollutants in aquifers contaminated by undefined organic waste mixtures.

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