Combined Application of Stable Carbon Isotope Analysis and Specific Metabolites Determination for Assessing In Situ Degradation of Aromatic Hydrocarbons in a Tar Oil-Contaminated Aquifer

Christian Griebler, Michael Safinowski, Andrea Vieth, Hans H. Richnow, Rainer U. Meckenstock

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168 Scopus citations

Abstract

To evaluate the intrinsic bioremediation potential in an anoxic tar oil-contaminated aquifer at a former gasworks site, groundwater samples were qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed by compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA) and signature metabolites analysis (SMA). 13C/12C fractionation data revealed conclusive evidence for in situ biodegradation of benzene, toluene, o-xylene, m/p-xylene, naphthalene, and 1-methylnaphthalene. In laboratory growth studies, 13C/12C isotope enrichment factors for anaerobic degradation of naphthalene (ε = -1.1 ± 0.4) and 2-methylnaphthalene (ε = -0.9 ± 0.1) were determined with the sulfate-reducing enrichment culture N47, which was isolated from the investigated test site. On the basis of these and other laboratory-derived enrichment factors from the literature, in situ biodegradation could be quantified for toluene, o-xylene, m/p-xylene, and naphthalene. Stable carbon isotope fractionation in the field was also observed for ethylbenzene, 2-methylnaphthalene, and benzothiophene but without providing conclusive results. Further evidence for the in situ turnover of individual BTEX compounds was provided by the presence of acetophenone, o-toluic acid, and p-toluic acid, three intermediates in the anaerobic degradation of ethylbenzene, o-xylene, and p-xylene, respectively. A number of groundwater samples also contained naphthyl-2-methylsuccinic acid, a metabolite that is highly specific for the anaerobic degradation of 2-methylnaphthalene. Additional metabolites that provided evidence on the anaerobic in situ degradation of naphthalenes were 1-naphthoic acid, 2-naphthoic acid, 1,2,3,4-tetrahydronaphthoic acid, and 5,6,7,8-tetrahydronaphthoic acid. 2-Carboxybenzothiophene, 5-carboxybenzothiophene, a putative further carboxybenzothiophene isomer, and the reduced derivative dihydrocarboxybenzothiophene indicated the anaerobic conversion of the heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbon benzothiophene. The combined application of CSIA and SMA, as two reliable and independent tools to collect direct evidence on intrinsic bioremediation, leads to a substantially improved evaluation of natural attenuation in situ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-631
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume38
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes

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