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Anaerobic Biodegradation of TCE in Laboratory Columns of Fractured Saprolite
Ground Water (2004)
  • Melissa E. Lenczewski, Northern Illinois University
  • Larry McKay, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • Alice Layton, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
An experiment was conducted to determine if biodegradation of trichloroethylene (TCE) can occur in previously uncontaminated ground water in saturated fractured saprolite (highly weathered material derived from sedimentary rocks). Two undisturbed columns (0.23 m diameter by 0.25 m long) of fractured saprolite were collected from ∼2 m depth at an uncontaminated site on the Oak Ridge Reservation, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Natural, uncontaminated ground water from the site, which was degassed and spiked with dissolved phase TCE, was continuously pumped through one column containing the natural microbial communities (the biotic column). In a second column, the microorganisms were inhibited and the dissolved phase TCE was added under aerobic conditions (dissolved oxygen conditions > 2 ppm). In effluent from the biotic column, reducing conditions rapidly developed and evidence of anaerobic biodegradation of TCE, by the production of cDCE, first appeared ∼31 days after addition of TCE. Reductive dechlorination of TCE occurred after iron-reducing conditions were established and about the same time that sulfate reduction began. There was no evidence of methanogenesis. Analyses using polymerase chain reaction with specific primers sets detected the bacteria Geothrix, Geobacter, and Desulfococcus-Desulfonema-Desulfosarcina in the effluent of the biotic column, but no methanogens. The presence of these bacteria is consistent with iron- and sulfate-reducing conditions. In the inhibited column, there were no indicators of TCE degradation. Natural organic matter that occurs in the saprolite and ground water at the site is the most likely primary electron donor for supporting reductive dechlorination of TCE. The relatively rapid appearance of indicators of TCE dechlorination suggests that these processes may occur even in settings where low oxygen conditions occur seasonally due to changes in the water table.
Publication Date
July, 2004
Citation Information
Melissa E. Lenczewski, Larry McKay and Alice Layton. "Anaerobic Biodegradation of TCE in Laboratory Columns of Fractured Saprolite" Ground Water Vol. 42 Iss. 4 (2004)
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