Effect of Terminal Electron Accepting Processes on Acetate Thresholds in Contaminated Sediments

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2006-06-09

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Demonstrating the success of in situ bioremediation is challenging, requiring multiple lines of evidence, e.g., "footprints" of microbially-mediated processes that transform contaminants, like metabolic intermediates. This project evaluated the hypothesis that characteristic threshold concentrations of acetate, a key intermediate under anaerobic conditions, occur in contaminant plume regions dominated by different terminal electron accepting processes (TEAPs). The evaluation included characterizing the initially predominant TEAP(s) in sediment-slurry microcosms, and then measuring acetate thresholds in the sediment-slurries when dominated by different TEAPs. Based on the characterization, the sediments were dominated by methanogenesis, consistent with field observations. Interestingly, in the threshold experiments, similar acetate thresholds were observed under methanogenic conditions and in chlorinated-aliphatic degrading microcosms, although thermodynamics predict lower thresholds under the latter conditions. Therefore, this study demonstrated some of the potential, as well as complications, in using and interpreting acetate thresholds as an indicator of the dominant TEAP.

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