Laboratory-scale in situ bioremediation in heterogeneous porous media: Biokinetics-limited scenario

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Subsurface heterogeneities influence interfacial mass-transfer processes and affect the application of in situ bioremediation by impacting the availability of substrates to the microorganisms. However, for difficult-to-degrade compounds, and/or cases with inhibitory biodegradation conditions, slow biokinetics may also limit the overall bioremediation rate, or be as limiting as mass-transfer processes. In this work, a quantitative framework based on a set of dimensionless coefficients was used to capture the effects of the competing interfacial and biokinetic processes and define the overall rate-limiting process. An integrated numerical modeling and experimental approach was used to evaluate application of the quantitative framework for a scenario in which slow-biokinetics limited the overall bioremediation rate of a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (naphthalene). Numerical modeling was conducted to simulate the groundwater flow and naphthalene transport and verify the system parameters, which were used in the quantitative framework application. The experiments examined the movement and biodegradation of naphthalene in a saturated, heterogeneous intermediate-scale flow cell with two layers of contrasting hydraulic conductivities. These experiments were conducted in two phases: Phase I, simulating an inhibited slow biodegradation; and Phase II, simulating an engineered bioremediation, with system perturbations selected to enhance the slow biodegradation rate. In Phase II, two engineered perturbations to the system were selected to examine their ability to enhance in situ biodegradation. In the first perturbation, nitrogen and phosphorus in excess of the required stoichiometric amounts were spiked into the influent solution to mimic a common remedial action taken in the field. The results showed that this perturbation had a moderate positive impact, consistent with slow biokinetics being the overall rate-limiting process. However, the second perturbation, which was to alleviate inhibition and increase the biodegradation rate, enhanced the overall biotransformation rate to a greater degree.

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© 2014 Elsevier B.V. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jconhyd.2014.01.001

Publication Title

Journal of Contaminant Hydrology