Biofiltration for the removal and 'detoxification' of a complex mixture of volatile organic compounds

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A study was performed to determine the effectiveness of using biofiltration for the removal of a complex mixture of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) air-stripped from petroleum hydrocarbons. A biofilter was constructed which contained 264 cm3 of packing material (Celite® R-635). The unit was inoculated with a mixed culture containing a hydrocarbon-degrading Pseudomonas sp and an Alcaligenes sp. Several of the major compounds in the VOC mixture were monitored individually, along with the total VOCs, using gas chromatography. The average influent concentration of the VOC mixture was 320 ppmv and the average total VOC removal rate was over 56%, with the average removal rate of the monitored individual compounds ranging from 49-90%. After 30 days of operation the average overall removal rate was 69% and the removal of the major compounds averaged 92%. The toxicity and mutagenicity of the air stream was monitored using the Microtox and Ames assays, respectively. These data show marked decreases in toxicity and mutagenicity of the air stream as a result of the biofiltration treatment. The biofiltration system, therefore, was not only effective in removing VOCs from the air stream over an extended time-period, but was also effective in greatly reducing the toxicity and mutagenicity associated with the remaining VOCs.

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Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology