Thermally Enhanced Bioremediation of a Gasoline-Contaminated Aquifer Using Toluene Oxidizing Bacteria

by Rula Deeb,
Lisa Alvarez-Cohen,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Critical Issues in Water and Wastewater Treatment


The combined application of steam injection and vacuum extraction has proved to be very effective for the in situ remediation of a gasoline contaminated aquifer. It is expected that the steam treated zone with its near-sterile nature, increased temperature, and decreased level of contaminant concentration will provide a superior environment for enhanced bioremediation, and will favor the survival of an introduced microbial culture for the destruction of residual gasoline hydrocarbons and especially BTEX compounds (Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl benzene, and Xylene). A mixed microbial culture seeded from the pre-steamed aquifer material was enriched in a laboratory chemostat on toluene, a major gasoline aromatic. Studies were conducted to determine the optimal conditions for microbial growth and activity. Growth rate studies conducted at different temperatures revealed that cell growth was optimal at 35°C, a temperature at which the aquifer can be maintained using the existing steam injection wells. The enriched culture was shown to degrade all BTEX compounds successfully both individually and in mixtures. Substrate toxicity was observed for some of the gasoline aromatics but at concentration levels well above those found in groundwater. When cells were exposed to mixtures of BTEX compounds, the biodegradation of xylene, the most recalcitrant aromatic among BTEX compounds, was stimulated. When cells were exposed to gasoline, BTEX degradation proceeded with no apparent inhibition by gasoline aliphatics; little aliphatic degradation took place, however, suggesting the absence of monooxygenase enzymes in the mixed culture. In mixtures of both toluene and propane enriched cultures, only dioxygenase activity was observed.

Subject Headings: Temperature effects | Mixtures | Thermal effects | Remediation | Biological processes | Gasoline | Pollution | Aquifers

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