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Open Access Publications from the University of California

GeoChip-based Analysis of Groundwater Microbial Diversity in Norman Landfill


The Norman Landfill is a closed municipal solid waste landfill located on an alluvium associated with the Canadian River in Norman, Oklahoma. It has operated as a research site since 1994 because it is typical of many closed landfill sites across the U.S. Leachate from the unlined landfill forms a groundwater plume that extends downgradient approximately 250 m from the landfill toward the Canadian River. To investigate the impact of the landfill leachate on the diversity and functional structure of microbial communities, groundwater samples were taken from eight monitoring wells at a depth of 5m, and analyzed using a comprehensive functional gene array covering about 50,000 genes involved in key microbial processes, such as biogeochemical cycling of C, N, P, and S, and bioremediation of organic contaminants and metals. Wells are located within a transect along a presumed flow path with different distances to the center of the leachate plume. Our analyses showed that microbial communities were obviously impacted by the leachate-component from the landfill. The number of genes detected and microbial diversity indices in the center (LF2B) and its closest (MLS35) wells were significantly less than those detected in other more downgradient wells, while no significant changes were observed in the relative abundance (i.e., percentage of each gene category) for most gene categories. However, the microbial community composition or structure of the landfill groundwater did not clearly show a significant correlation with the distance from well LF2B. Burkholderia sp. and Pseudomonas sp. were found to be the dominant microbial populations detected in all wells, while Bradyrhizobium sp. and Ralstonia sp. were dominant populations for seven wells except LF2B. In addition, Mantel test and canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) indicate that pH, sulfate, ammonia nitrogen and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) have significant effects on the microbial community structure. The results suggest that the leachate from unlined landfills significantly impact the structures of groundwater microbial communities, and that more distal wells recover by natural attenuation.

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