Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Sequential biodegradation of 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene at oxic-anoxic groundwater interfaces in model laboratory columns

March 25, 2020

Halogenated organic solvents such as chlorobenzenes (CBs) are frequent groundwater contaminants due to legacy spills. When contaminated anaerobic groundwater discharges into surface water through wetlands and other transition zones, aeration can occur from various physical and biological processes at shallow depths, resulting in oxic-anoxic interfaces (OAIs). This study investigated the potential for 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene (1,2,4-TCB) biodegradation at OAIs. A novel upflow column system was developed to create stable anaerobic and aerobic zones, simulating a natural groundwater OAI. Two columns containing (1) sand and (2) a mixture of wetland sediment and sand were operated continuously for 295 days with varied doses of 0.14-1.4 mM sodium lactate (NaLac) as a model electron donor. Both column matrices supported anaerobic reductive dechlorination and aerobic degradation of 1,2,4-TCB spatially separated between anaerobic and aerobic zones. Reductive dechlorination produced a mixture of di- and monochlorobenzene daughter products, with estimated zero-order dechlorination rates up to 31.3 µM/hr. Aerobic CB degradation, limited by available dissolved oxygen, occurred for 1,2,4-TCB and all dechlorinated daughter products. Initial reductive dechlorination did not enhance the overall observed extent or rate of subsequent aerobic CB degradation. Increasing NaLac dose increased the extent of reductive dechlorination, but suppressed aerobic CB degradation at 1.4 mM NaLac due to increased oxygen demand. 16S-rRNA sequencing of biofilm microbial communities revealed strong stratification of functional anaerobic and aerobic organisms between redox zones including the sole putative reductive dechlorinator detected in the columns, Dehalobacter. The sediment mixture column supported enhanced reductive dechlorination compared to the sand column at all tested NaLac doses and growth of Dehalobacter populations up to 4.1×108 copies/g (51% relative abundance), highlighting the potential benefit of sediments in reductive dechlorination processes. Results from these model systems suggest both substantial anaerobic and aerobic CB degradation can co-occur along the OAI at contaminated sites where bioavailable electron donors and oxygen are both present.

Publication Year 2020
Title Sequential biodegradation of 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene at oxic-anoxic groundwater interfaces in model laboratory columns
DOI 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2020.103639
Authors Steven J. Chow, Michelle Lorah, Amar R. Wadhawan, Neal D. Durant, Edward J. Bouwer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
Index ID 70209556
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Maryland Water Science Center