The Microbubble Assisted Bioremediation of Chlorinated Ethenes

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Virginia Tech

This work focused on using a microbubble dispersion to deliver hydrogen and carbon dioxide to anaerobic consortia to stimulate their ability to reductively dehalogenate tetrachloroethylene all the way to ethene and ethane. A continuous flow system, consisting of six anaerobic soil column bioreactors, inoculated with sediments from Virginia Tech's Duck Pond, was used for this study. Two columns received microbubbles containing hydrogen and carbon dioxide, two received sodium propionate, and two were not fed a substrate. A 30 micromolar PCE solution was delivered to the consortia at 3 ml/min.

Microbubbles containing a mixture of 90% hydrogen and 10% carbon dioxide were effectively produced in a closed spinning disk generator, and were acceptable for delivering the gases to the columns. After the biodegradation study was completed, the microbubbles were found to have a pH of 4.4, due to the carbon dioxide. Microbubbles amended with NaOH to 0.01 molar yielded pH neutral microbubbles with improved stability.

Methane was measured in all six columns throughout the experiment, verifying that methanogens were present. Methane levels were highest in the propionate columns, showing the the methanogens there were more active. Methane levels in the microbubble columns were similar to those in the control columns. Propionate and acetate were not detected in the columns where propionate was fed, showing that proton reducers and acetoclastic methanogens were both active.

Recovery of PCE and the degradation products was almost 90% in the microbubble and control columns where most of the PCE was recovered in the effluent. The predominant product in both systems was TCE, although some ethene was detected in all four columns. The control consortia produced TCE averaging about five micromolar while the microbubble columns averaged about two micromolar TCE. One of the components of the microbubbles probably caused the lowered amounts of PCE reduction. That some ethene was seen in the microbubble columns suggests different conditions can be found to stimulate the further reduction of PCE with hydrogen and carbon dioxide microbubbles.

The product recovery in the propionate columns was about 64%. Over half of the injected PCE was dechlorinated to ethene and ethane.

tetrachloroethylene, perchloroethylene, trichlororethylene, anaerobic biodegradation, reductive dehalogenation, PCE, TCE