Water research

Electron donor availability for microbial reductive processes following thermal treatment.

PMID 22048015


Thermal treatment is capable of removing significant free-phase chlorinated solvent mass while potentially enhancing bioremediation effectiveness by establishing temperature gradients in the perimeter of the source zone and by increasing electron donor availability. The objectives of this study were to determine the potential for enhanced reductive dechlorination activity at the intermediate temperatures that establish in the perimeter of the heated source zone, and to evaluate the effect of electron donor competition on the performance of the microbial reductive dechlorination process. Microcosms, constructed with tetrachloroethene- (PCE-) and trichloroethene- (TCE-) impacted soils from the Great Lakes, IL, and Ft. Lewis, WA, sites were incubated at temperatures of 24, 35, 50, 70, and 95 °C for 4 months. Reductive dechlorination did not occur in microcosms incubated at temperatures above 24 °C even though mesophilic PCE-to-cis-1,2-dichloroethene dechlorinators were present in Ft. Lewis soil suggesting electron donor limitations. Five days after cooling the microcosms to 24 °C and bioaugmentation with the methanogenic, PCE-to-ethene-dechlorinating consortium OW, at least 85% of the initial PCE and TCE were dechlorinated, but dechlorination ceased prior to complete conversion to ethene. Subsequent biostimulation with hydrogen gas mitigated the dechlorination stall, and conversion to ethene resumed. The results of this study demonstrated that temperatures >35 °C inhibit reductive dechlorination activity at the Great Lakes and Ft. Lewis sites, and that the majority of reducing equivalents released from the soil matrix during heat treatment are consumed in methanogenesis rather than reductive dechlorination. These observations suggest that bioaugmenting thermal treatment sites with cultures that do not contain methanogens may allow practitioners to realize enhanced dechlorination activity, a potential benefit of coupling thermal treatment with bioremediation.