Evaluating the fate of chlorinated ethenes in streambed sediments by combining stable isotope, geochemical and microbial methods

  • Abe Y
  • Aravena R
  • Zopfi J
 et al. 
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The occurrence of chlorinated ethene transformation in a streambed was investigated using concentration and carbon isotope data from water samples taken at different locations and depths within a 15 × 25 m study area across which a tetrachloroethene (PCE) plume discharges. Furthermore, it was evaluated how the degree of transformation is related to groundwater discharge rates, redox conditions, solid organic matter content (SOM) and microbial factors. Groundwater discharge rates were quantified based on streambed temperatures, and redox conditions using concentrations of dissolved redox-sensitive species. The degree of chlorinated ethene transformation was highly variable in space from no transformation to transformation beyond ethene. Complete reductive dechlorination to ethane and ethene occurred at locations with at least sulfate-reducing conditions and with a residence time in the samples streambed zone (80 cm depth) of at least 10 days. Among these locations, Dehalococcoides was detected using a PCR method where SOM contents were > 2% w/w and where transformation proceeded beyond ethene. However, it was not detected at locations with low SOM, which may cause an insufficient H2supply to sustain a detectably dense Dehalococcoides population. Additionally, it is possible that other organisms are responsible for the biodegradation. A microcosm study with streambed sediments demonstrated the potential of VC oxidation throughout the site even at locations without a pre-exposure to VC, consistent with the detection of the epoxyalkane:coenzyme M transferase (EaCoMT) gene involved in the degradation of chlorinated ethenes via epoxidation. In contrast, no aerobic transformation of cDCE in microcosms over a period of 1.5 years was observed. In summary, the study demonstrated that carbon isotope analysis is a sensitive tool to identify the degree of chlorinated ethene transformation even in hydrologically and geochemically complex streambed systems. In addition, it was observed that the degree of transformation is related to redox conditions, which in turn depend on groundwater discharge rates. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Biodegradation
  • Chlorinated ethenes
  • Groundwater-surface water interaction
  • Stable isotopes

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