Biological Treatment of Trichloroethylene

by John T. Wilson, US EPA, Ada, OK, USA,
Sam Fogel, US EPA, Ada, OK, USA,
Paul V. Roberts, US EPA, Ada, OK, USA,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Detection, Control, and Renovation of Contaminated Ground Water


Trichloroethylene and related compounds such as cis- and trans-1,2-dichloroethylene and vinyl chloride are common contaminants of ground water in industrial areas. In oxygenated ground water, these compounds are generally resistant to biodegradation. It has been recently shown that these compounds can be cometabolized by bacteria that oxidize gaseous hydrocarbons such as methane or propane. The hydrocarbon-oxidizing bacteria excrete the corresponding epoxide, which rearranges or hydrolyzes to other compounds. Then these products are degraded to carbon dioxide by other naturally occurring bacteria. This cometabolism forms the basis for an innovative biotechnology to reclaim ground water. Currently, a field study of trichloroethylene degradation is being carried out in a shallow semi-confined aquifer in the Santa Clara Valley of California. This field study has good control on dilution of contaminants due to dispersion, and on removal of trichloroethylene through nonbiological processes.

Subject Headings: Biological processes | Field tests | Groundwater | Bacteria | TCE | Hydrocarbons | Water pollution | Groundwater pollution | California | United States

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