Biodegradation of three- and four-ring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons under aerobic and denitrifying conditions

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PAHs are thought to be particularly persistent in environments where anaerobic conditions exist. This study presents evidence for the biodegradation of three- and four-ringed PAHs (anthracene, phenanthrene, and pyrene) under strict anaerobic, denitrifying conditions. Three pseudomonad strains, isolated from contrasting environments, were used in this study. All three strains were known PAH degraders and denitrifiers. Degradation proceeded to nondetectable levels ( < 0.001 mg/L) in 12-80 h for anthracene, 12-44 h for phenanthrene, and 24-72 h for pyrene. The rates of anaerobic degradation were typically slower than under aerobic conditions in almost all cases, except for strain SAG-R which had similar removal rates for all three and four-ring PAHs. Denitrification activity was verified by monitoring nitrate utilization and nitrous oxide production. Although none of the pseudomonads were adapted to the denitrifying conditions, only the pseudomonad isolated from a noncontaminated site (strain KBM-1) consistently exhibited an adaptation period which approximated 12 h. This study supports growing evidence that the degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons coupled to denitrification may be an important factor affecting the fate of these compounds in natural and engineered systems.

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Environmental Science and Technology