Recovery of Phenanthrene-Degrading Bacteria after Simulated in Situ Persulfate Oxidation in Contaminated Soil

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Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States
* Corresponding author phone: 919-966-1024; e-mail: [email protected]
†Current address: Solutions-IES, Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina.
‡Current address: CH2M-Hill, Chantilly, Virginia.
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2011, 45, 2, 719–725
Publication Date (Web):December 16, 2010
Copyright © 2010 American Chemical Society
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A continuous-flow column study was conducted to investigate the long-term effects of persulfate oxidation on the abundance and activity of the indigenous microbial community and phenanthrene-degrading bacteria in contaminated soil from a former manufactured gas plant (MGP) site. Approximately six pore volumes of a 20 g/L persulfate solution were introduced into the column, followed by simulated groundwater for 500 days. Soil samples were collected from the surface of the soil bed and along the column length immediately before and after persulfate injection and up to 500 days following injection. Exposure to persulfate led to a 2- to 3-log reduction in total bacterial 16S rRNA genes, severe inhibition of 14C-acetate mineralization (as a measure of general microbial activity), and a decrease in community diversity. However, relatively rapid recovery of both bacterial gene abundance and activity was observed within 30 days after persulfate exposure. Mineralization of 14C-phenanthrene was also inhibited but did not recover until 100 days postoxidation. Known phenanthrene-degrading bacterial groups decreased to below detection limits throughout the column, with recovery times from 100 to 500 days after persulfate injection. These findings suggest that coupling biological processes with persulfate oxidation is possible, although recovery of specific contaminant degraders may occur much later than the general microbial community recovers. Furthermore, the use of total bacterial quantity or nonspecific measures of activity as a surrogate for the recovery of contaminant degraders may be inappropriate for evaluating the compatibility of chemical treatment with subsequent bioremediation.

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Table of column soil properties and PAH concentrations; schematic of the column apparatus; procedures for chemical and molecular analyses; table of qPCR primer sets; and figures of persulfate breakthrough, DO profiles, a phylogenetic tree of all sequences recovered, soil PAH concentrations before and after persulfate injection at all sample locations, and batch persulfate efficacy results. This material is available free of charge via the Internet at

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