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Degradation of phenolic contaminants in ground water by anaerobic bacteria: St. Louis Park, Minnesota

October 1, 1982

Coal-tar derivatives from a coal-tar distillation and wood-treating plant that operated from 1918 to 1972 at St. Louis Park, Minnesota contaminated the near-surface ground water. Solutions of phenolic compounds and a water-immiscible mixture of polynuclear aromatic compounds accumulated in wetlands near the plant site and entered the aquifer. The concentration of phenolic compounds in the aqueous phase under the wetlands is about 30 mg/1 but decreases to less than 0.2 mg/1 at a distance of 430 m immediately downgradient from the source. Concentrations of naphthalene (the predominant polynuclear compound in the ground water) and sodium (selected as a conservative tracer) range from about 20 mg/1 and 430 mg/1 in the aqueous phase at the source to about 2 mg/1 and 120 mg/1 at 430 m downgradient, respectively. Phenolic compounds and naphthalene are disappearing faster than expected if only dilution were occurring. Sorption of phenolic compounds on aquifer sediments is negligible but naphthalene is slightly sorbed. Anaerobic biodegradation of phenolic compounds is primarily responsible for the observed attenuation. Methane was found only in water samples from the contaminated zone (2-20 mg/1). Methane-producing bacteria were found only in water from the contaminated zone. Methane was produced in laboratory cultures of contaminated water inoculated with bacteria from the contaminated zone. Evidence for anaerobic biodegradation of naphthalene under either field or laboratory conditions was not obtained.

Publication Year 1982
Title Degradation of phenolic contaminants in ground water by anaerobic bacteria: St. Louis Park, Minnesota
DOI 10.1111/j.1745-6584.1982.tb01390.x
Authors G. G. Ehrlich, D.F. Goerlitz, E.M. Godsy, M. F. Hult
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ground Water
Index ID 70170881
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Minnesota Water Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program