Evaluation of Enhanced Bioremediation for Reductive Dechlorination of Tetrachloroethene (PCE): Microcosm Study

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Virginia Tech

Laboratory microcosm experiments were conducted to assess the potential for biostimulation and bioaugmentation as source reduction measures in support of a monitored natural attenuation remedial strategy at Naval Amphibious Base (NAB) Little Creek. Previous work with laboratory microcosms conducted under simulated natural (unamended) conditions has demonstrated that indigenous dehalorespirators were capable of partial dechlorination of tetrachloroethene (PCE) to cis-dichloroethene (cis-DCE). This study attempts to achieve complete reductive dechlorination with amendments to static microcosms to test the hypotheses that nutrient-limited or microorganism-limited conditions exist in aquifer sediments obtained from the site. The enhanced bioremediation experiments were comprised of nutrient-amended microcosms receiving additions of electron donors, mineral medium, or anaerobic digester supernatant, and dechlorinating culture-amended microcosms were inoculated with a culture capable of transforming PCE to ethene. Reductive dechlorination in the nutrient-amended microcosms proceeded to cis-DCE over a 260-day study period, at slightly higher rates than in experiments conducted with aquifer sediments from the same location under natural conditions. Inoculation of aquifer sediments with a small amount of dechlorinating culture initiated rapid transformation of PCE to vinyl chloride (VC) by day 18 of the study. Zero-order rates of PCE dechlorination in unamended, propionate-, formate-, mineral medium-, digester supernatant-, and dechlorinating culture-amended microcosms were 0.24, 0.750, 1.30, 0.339, 0.177, and 1.75 µM/day, respectively. The results of this study suggest that an engineered biostimulation approach alone may not be as beneficial for PCE source reduction at NAB Little Creek, than bioaugmentation with competent dehalorespirators, along with the inclusion of supplemental nutrients which would be available to stimulate dechlorination activity of both indigenous and introduced microorganisms.

chlorinated solvents, tetrachloroethene, bioremediation, natural attenuation, PCE, reductive dechlorination