Importance of Unattached Bacteria and Bacteria Attached to Sediment in Determining Potentials for Degradation of Xenobiotic Organic Contaminants in an Aerobic Aquifer

Per Henning Nielsen, Hans-Jørgen Albrechtsen, Thomas Højlund Christensen, Peter Engelund Holm

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    Abstract

    The bacterial abundance, distribution, and degradation potential (in terms of degradation versus lack of degradation) for four xenobiotic compounds in an aerobic aquifer sediment have been examined in laboratory and field experiments. The xenobiotic compounds studied were benzene, toluene, o-xylene, and naphthalene (all at concentrations of approximately 120 pg/liter). The aerobic degradation experiments ran for approximately 90 days at 10°C, which corresponded to the groundwater temperature. At the end of the experiment, the major part of the microbial biomass, quantified as acridine orange direct counts, was attached to the groundwater sediment (18 x 106 to 25 x 106 cells per g [dry weight]), and only a minor part was unattached in the groundwater (0.6 x 106 to 5.5 x 106 cells per ml). Experiments involving aquifer sediment suspensions showed identical degradation potentials in the laboratory and in the field. However, laboratory experiments involving only groundwater (excluding aquifer sediment) showed less degradation potential than in situ experiments involving only groundwater, indicating that the manipulation or approach of the laboratory experiments could affect the determination of the degradation potentials. No differences were observed between the groundwater-only and the sediment compartments in the in situ experiments in the ability to degrade the compounds, but the maximum degradation rates were substantially lower in the groundwater-only compartment. Preparations used in laboratory experiments for studying the degradation potential for xenobiotic organic contaminants should contain sediment to obtain the highest numbers of bacteria as well as the broadest and most stable degradation. When only the fine (silt- and clay-size) particles of the sediment were used, nearly the same advantages were gained without seriously complicating the sampling procedures by the occurrence of sand and gravel fractions.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
    Volume58
    Issue number9
    Pages (from-to)3020-3026
    ISSN0099-2240
    Publication statusPublished - 1992

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