Applied biochemistry and biotechnology

Operational stability to changes in composition of herbicide mixtures fed to a laboratory-scale biobarrier.

PMID 23315231


The main objective of this work was to evaluate the operational stability of a laboratory-scale aerobic biobarrier designed for the treatment of water contaminated by mixtures of three herbicides frequently found in agricultural runoffs, atrazine, simazine and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). The microbial consortium used to degrade the herbicides was composed by six cultivable bacterial strains, identified as members of the genera Variovorax, Sphingopyxis, Hydrocarboniphaga, Methylobacterium, Pseudomonas and Acinetobacter. The effect caused by a seventh member of the microbial consortium, a ciliated protozoa of the genus Colpoda, on the herbicides biodegradation kinetics, was also evaluated. The biodegradation of five combinations of the herbicides 2,4-D, atrazine and simazine was studied in the biobarrier, operated in steady state continuous culture at different volumetric loading rates. In all cases, removal efficiencies determined by chemical oxygen demand (COD) and HPLC were nearly 100 %. These results, joined to the null accumulation of aromatic byproducts of atrazine and simazine catabolism, show that after 495 days of operation, in the presence of the protozoa, the adaptability of the microbial consortium to changing environmental conditions allowed the complete removal of the mixture of herbicides.