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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Anaerobic Degradation of Chlorinated Hydrocarbons in Groundwater Aquifers or "Chlorinated Hydrocarbon Degradation"


Groundwater contamination by chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as tetrachloroethene (PCE) or trichloroethene (TCE), is a major concern throughout the United States. A developing strategy for the remediation of PCE and TCE contaminated aquifers is anaerobic biodegradation. From a TCE contaminated groundwater site, microorganisms were enriched with the ability to anaerobically convert PCE and TCE completely to ethene. Kinetic studies performed with this culture showed that degradation of PCE, TCE, and vinyl chloride (VC) was first order with respect to substrate concentration up to their solubility. It was also shown that, although VC inhibited TCE degradation, a finite degradation rate could be achieved in the presence of high VC concentrations.

PCE and TCE form dense-nonaqueous-phase liquids (DNAPLs) which can provide a persistent groundwater contamination source. Under saturating PCE and TCE conditions, these chlorinated ethenes were rapidly converted to ethene with little or no accumulation of VC. These results suggest that anaerobic remediation can potentially be used in the remediation of PCE and TCE DNAPLs.

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