Environmental science and pollution research international

Response of the microbial community to seasonal groundwater level fluctuations in petroleum hydrocarbon-contaminated groundwater.

PMID 25687607


The effects of seasonal groundwater level fluctuations on the contamination characteristics of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) in soils, groundwater, and the microbial community were investigated at a typical petrochemical site in northern China. The measurements of groundwater and soil at different depths showed that significant TPH residue was present in the soil in this study area, especially in the vicinity of the pollution source, where TPH concentrations were up to 2600 mg kg(-1). The TPH concentration in the groundwater fluctuated seasonally, and the maximum variation was 0.8 mg L(-1). The highest TPH concentrations were detected in the silty clay layer and lied in the groundwater level fluctuation zones. The groundwater could reach previously contaminated areas in the soil, leading to higher groundwater TPH concentrations as TPH leaches into the groundwater. The coincident variation of the electron acceptors and TPH concentration with groundwater-table fluctuations affected the microbial communities in groundwater. The microbial community structure was significantly different between the wet and dry seasons. The canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) results showed that in the wet season, TPH, NO3(-), Fe(2+), TMn, S(2-), and HCO3(-) were the major factors correlating the microbial community. A significant increase in abundance of operational taxonomic unit J1 (97% similar to Dechloromonas aromatica sp.) was also observed in wet season conditions, indicating an intense denitrifying activity in the wet season environment. In the dry season, due to weak groundwater level fluctuations and low temperature of groundwater, the microbial activity was weak. But iron and sulfate-reducing were also detected in dry season at this site. As a whole, groundwater-table fluctuations would affect the distribution, transport, and biodegradation of the contaminants. These results may be valuable for the control and remediation of soil and groundwater pollution at this site and in other petrochemical-contaminated areas. Furthermore, they are probably helpful for reducing health risks to the general public from contaminated groundwater.