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Multi-method assessment of the intrinsic biodegradation potential of an aquifer contaminated with chlorinated ethenes at an industrial area in Barcelona (Spain)

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Abstract

The bioremediation potential of an aquifer contaminated with tetrachloroethene (PCE) was assessed by combining hydrogeochemical data of the site, microcosm studies, metabolites concentrations, compound specific-stable carbon isotope analysis and the identification of selected reductive dechlorination biomarker genes. The characterization of the site through 10 monitoring wells evidenced that leaked PCE was transformed to TCE and cis-DCE via hydrogenolysis. Carbon isotopic mass balance of chlorinated ethenes pointed to two distinct sources of contamination and discarded relevant alternate degradation pathways in the aquifer. Application of specific-genus primers targeting Dehalococcoides mccartyi species and the vinyl chloride-to-ethene reductive dehalogenase vcrA indicated the presence of autochthonous bacteria capable of the complete dechlorination of PCE. The observed cis-DCE stall was consistent with the aquifer geochemistry (positive redox potentials; presence of dissolved oxygen, nitrate, and sulphate; absence of ferrous iron), which was thermodynamically favourable to dechlorinate highly chlorinated ethenes but required lower redox potentials to evolve beyond cis-DCE to the innocuous end product ethene. Accordingly, the addition of lactate or a mixture of ethanol plus methanol as electron donor sources in parallel field-derived anoxic microcosms accelerated dechlorination of PCE and passed cis-DCE up to ethene, unlike the controls (without amendments, representative of field natural attenuation). Lactate fermentation produced acetate at near-stoichiometric amounts. The array of techniques used in this study provided complementary lines of evidence to suggest that enhanced anaerobic bioremediation using lactate as electron donor source is a feasible strategy to successfully decontaminate this site. The combination of complementary diagnostic techniques provides different lines of evidence for in situ bioremediation potential of a tetrachloroethene-contaminated aquifer.

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Blázquez-Pallí, N., Rosell, M., Varias, J., Bosch, M., Soler, A., Vicent, T., & Marco-Urrea, E. (2019). Multi-method assessment of the intrinsic biodegradation potential of an aquifer contaminated with chlorinated ethenes at an industrial area in Barcelona (Spain). Environmental Pollution, 244, 165–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.10.013

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