Stable carbon isotope analysis to distinguish biotic and abiotic degradation of 1,1,1-trichloroethane in groundwater sediments

Mette Martina Broholm, Daniel Hunkeler, Nina Tuxen, Simon Jeannottat, Charlotte Scheutz

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The fate and treatability of 1,1,1-TCA by natural and enhanced reductive dechlorination was studied in laboratory microcosms. The study shows that compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA) identified an alternative 1,1,1-TCA degradation pathway that cannot be explained by assuming biotic reductive dechlorination. In all biotic microcosms 1,1,1-TCA was degraded with no apparent increase in the biotic degradation product 1,1-DCA. 1,1,1-TCA degradation was documented by a clear enrichment in 13C in all biotic microcosms, but not in the abiotic control, which suggests biotic or biotically mediated degradation. Biotic degradation by reductive dechlorination of 1,1-DCA to CA only occurred in bioaugmented microcosms and in donor stimulated microcosms with low initial 1,1,1-TCA or after significant decrease in 1,1,1-TCA concentration (after ∼day 200). Hence, the primary degradation pathway for 1,1,1-TCA does not appear to be reductive dechlorination via 1,1-DCA. In the biotic microcosms, the degradation of 1,1,1-TCA occurred under iron and sulfate reducing conditions. Biotic reduction of iron and sulfate likely resulted in formation of FeS, which can abiotically degrade 1,1,1-TCA. Hence, abiotic degradation of 1,1,1-TCA mediated by biotic FeS formation constitute an explanation for the observed 1,1,1-TCA degradation. This is supported by a high 1,1,1-TCA 13C enrichment factor consistent with abiotic degradation in biotic microcosms. 1,1-DCA carbon isotope field data suggest that this abiotic degradation of 1,1,1-TCA is a relevant process also at the field site.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-273
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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