Effects of oxygenation on hydrocarbon biodegradation in a hypoxic environment

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In 1984, an underground storage tank leaked approximately 41,000 L of gasoline into the ground water at the Naval Construction Battalion Command in Port Hueneme, CA (USA). Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) contamination stimulated remedial action. In 1995, a ground water circulation well (GCW) and network of surrounding monitoring wells were installed. After year of operation, dissolved oxygen and nitrate concentrations remained low in all monitoring wells. Benzene utilization (the sum of respiration, uptake, and conversion to polar compounds) ranged from 0.03 to 4.6 μg L -1 h -1, and toluene utilization ranged from 0.01 to 5.2 μg L -1 h -1. Heterotrophic bacterial productivity (total carbon assimilation) increased dramatically in the GCW, although benzene and toluene utilization decreased markedly relative to surrounding wells. Benzene and toluene uptake accounted for a significant proportion (mean = 22%) of the heterotrophic bacterial productivity except within the GCW, indicating other fuel contaminant or indigenous organic carbon and not BTEX compounds served as primary carbon source. The GCW effectively air-stripped BTEX compounds, but failed to stimulate benzene and toluene biodegradation and thus would not be effective for stimulating BTEX bioremediation under current deployment parameters. Air stripping was three orders of magnitude more effective than biodegradation for removing benzene and toluene in the GCW. © 2001 by Battelle Memorial Institute.

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Bioremediation Journal