Faculté des sciences

Intrinsic biodegradation potential of aromatic hydrocarbons in an alluvial aquifer - Potentials and limits of signature metabolite analysis and two stable isotope-based techniques

Morasch, Barbara ; Hunkeler, Daniel ; Zopfi, Jakob ; Temime, B ; Höhener, Patrick

In: Water Research, 2011, vol. 45, p. 4459-4469

Three independent techniques were used to assess the biodegradation of monoaromatic hydrocarbons and low-molecular weight polyaromatic hydrocarbons in the alluvial aquifer at the site of a former cokery (Flémalle, Belgium). Firstly, a stable carbon isotope-based field method allowed quantifying biodegradation of monoaromatic compounds in situ and confirmed the degradation of... Plus

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    Summary
    Three independent techniques were used to assess the biodegradation of monoaromatic hydrocarbons and low-molecular weight polyaromatic hydrocarbons in the alluvial aquifer at the site of a former cokery (Flémalle, Belgium).
    Firstly, a stable carbon isotope-based field method allowed quantifying biodegradation of monoaromatic compounds in situ and confirmed the degradation of naphthalene. No evidence could be deduced from stable isotope shifts for the intrinsic biodegradation of larger molecules such as methylnaphthalenes or acenaphthene. Secondly, using signature metabolite analysis, various intermediates of the anaerobic degradation of (poly-) aromatic and heterocyclic compounds were identified. The discovery of a novel metabolite of acenaphthene in groundwater samples permitted deeper insights into the anaerobic biodegradation of almost persistent environmental contaminants. A third method, microcosm incubations with 13C-labeled compounds under in situ-like conditions, complemented techniques one and two by providing quantitative information on contaminant biodegradation independent of molecule size and sorption properties. Thanks to stable isotope labels, the sensitivity of this method was much higher compared to classical microcosm studies. The 13C-microcosm approach allowed the determination of first-order rate constants for 13C-labeled benzene, naphthalene, or acenaphthene even in cases when degradation activities were only small. The plausibility of the third method was checked by comparing 13C-microcosm-derived rates to field-derived rates of the first approach. Further advantage of the use of 13C-labels in microcosms is that novel metabolites can be linked more easily to specific mother compounds even in complex systems. This was achieved using alluvial sediments where 13C-acenaphthyl methylsuccinate was identified as transformation product of the anaerobic degradation of acenaphthene.