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Anaerobic benzene oxidation in the Fe(III) reduction zone of petroleum-contaminated aquifers

September 25, 1998

The potential for anaerobic benzene oxidation in the Fe(III)-reduction zone of petroleum-contaminated aquifers was evaluated. Sediments were incubated under strict anaerobic conditions without any amendments in order to simulate in situ conditions. [14C]Benzene was not oxidized to 14CO2 at most sites examined, which is consistent with previous studies that have found that benzene tends to persist in unamended, anaerobic aquifer materials and/or long periods of time are required in order to adapt the microbial population for benzene degradation. However, at one site located in Bemidji, MN, [14C]benzene was oxidized to 14CO2 in unamended sediments without an apparent lag, suggesting that benzene was anaerobically degraded in situ. Benzene was not significantly oxidized in sediments from nearby Fe(III)-reducing sites nor in sediments collected from an uncontaminated background site in the same aquifer. Culturing and 16S rRNA-based molecular studies of the Bemidji aquifer demonstrated that while all sites contained similar numbers of Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms closely related to Geothrix fermentens, the site at which anaerobic benzene degradation was observed was greatly enriched with microorganisms in the family Geobacteraceae. This study provides the first data consistent with in situ anaerobic oxidation of benzene to carbon dioxide in the Fe(III)-reducing zone of a petroleum-contaminated aquifer and suggests that comparative studies on the size of the Geobacteraceae community in petroleum-contaminated aquifers might aid in the location of zones in which benzene degradation coupled to Fe(III) reduction is taking place.

Publication Year 1998
Title Anaerobic benzene oxidation in the Fe(III) reduction zone of petroleum-contaminated aquifers
DOI 10.1021/es9704949
Authors Robert T. Anderson, Juliette N. Rooney-Varga, Catherine V. Gaw, D. R. Lovley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Index ID 70214427
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program