Natural attenuation model and biodegradation for 1,1,1-trichloroethane contaminant in shallow groundwater
Chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons (CAHs) are common groundwater contaminants that can be removed from the environment by natural attenuation processes. CAH biodegradation can occur in wetland environments by reductive dechlorination as well as oxidation pathways. In particular, CAH oxidation may occur in vegetated wetlands, by microorganisms that are naturally associated with the roots of wetland plants. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the cometabolic degradation kinetics of the CAHs, cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cisDCE), trichloroethene (TCE), and 1,1,1-trichloroethane (1,1,1TCA), by methane-oxidizing bacteria associated with the roots of a typical wetland plant in soil-free system. Laboratory microcosms with washed live roots investigated aerobic, cometabolic degradation of CAHs by the root-associated methane-oxidizing bacteria at initial aqueous [CH4] ~1.9mgL(-1), and initial aqueous [CAH] ~150μgL(-1); cisDCE and TCE (in the presence of 1,1,1TCA) degraded significantly, with a removal efficiency of approximately 90% and 46%, respectively. 1,1,1TCA degradation was not observed in the presence of active methane oxidizers. The pseudo first-order degradation rate-constants of TCE and cisDCE were 0.12±0.01 and 0.59±0.07d(-1), respectively, which are comparable to published values. However, their biomass-normalized degradation rate constants obtained in this study were significantly smaller than pure-culture studies, yet they were comparable to values reported for biofilm systems. The study suggests that CAH removal in wetland plant roots may be comparable to processes within biofilms. This has led us to speculate that the active biomass may be on the root surface as a biofilm. The cisDCE and TCE mass losses due to methane oxidizers in this study offer insight into the role of shallow, vegetated wetlands as an environmental sink for such xenobiotic compounds.