Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Organohalide-Respiring Bacteria in a Heterogeneous PCE-DNAPL Source Zone


Natalie Cápiro, Frank E. Löffler, Kurt D. Pennell


Effective treatment of sites contaminated with dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) requires detailed understanding of the microbial community responses to changes in source zone strength and architecture. Changes in the spatial and temporal distributions of the organohalide-respiring Dehalococcoides mccartyi (Dhc) strains and Geobacter lovleyi strain SZ (GeoSZ) were examined in a heterogeneous tetrachloroethene- (PCE-) DNAPL source zone within a two-dimensional laboratory-scale aquifer flow cell. As part of a combined remedy approach, flushing with 2.3 pore volumes (PVs) of 4% (w/w) solution of the nonionic, biodegradable surfactant Tween® 80 removed 55% of the initial contaminant mass, and resulted in a PCE–DNAPL distribution that contained 51% discrete ganglia and 49% pools (ganglia-to-pool ratio of 1.06). Subsequent bioaugmentation with the PCE-to-ethene-dechlorinating consortium BDI-SZ resulted in cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cis-DCE) formation after 1 PV (ca. 7 days), while vinyl chloride (VC) and ethene were detected 10 PVs after bioaugmentation. Maximum ethene yields (ca. 90 μM) within DNAPL pool and gangliaregions coincided with the detection of the vcrA reductive dehalogenase (RDase) gene that exceeded the Dhc 16S rRNA genes by 2.0 ± 1.3 and 4.0 ± 1.7 fold in the pool and ganglia regions, respectively. Dhc and GeoSZ cell abundance increased by up to 4 orders-of-magnitude after 28 PVs of steady-state operation, with 1 to 2 orders-of-magnitude increases observed in close proximity to residual PCE–DNAPL. These observations suggest the involvement of these dechlorinators the in observed PCE dissolution enhancements of up to 2.3 and 6.0-fold within pool and ganglia regions, respectively. Analysis of the solid and aqueous samples at the conclusion of the experiment revealed that the highest VC (≥ 155 μM) and ethene (≥ 65 μM) concentrations were measured in zones where Dhc and GeoSZ were predominately attached to the solids. These findings demonstrate dynamic responses of organohalide-respiring bacteria in a heterogeneous DNAPL source zone, and emphasize the influence of source zone architecture on bioremediation performance.

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Capiro NL, Loffler FE, Pennell KD. 2015. Spatial and temporal dynamics of organohalide-respiring bacteria in a heterogeneous PCE-DNAPL source zone. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology 182:78-90.