Fate of Volatile Chlorinated Organic Compounds in a Laboratory


Fate of Volatile Chlorinated Organic Compounds in a Laboratory Chamber with ... Lee A. Newman, Xiaoping Wang, Indulis A. Muiznieks, Gordon Ekuan, Mart...
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Environ. Sci. Techno/. 1995, 29, 2437-2444

Fate of Volatile Chlorinated Organic Compounds in a Laboratory Chamber with Alfalfa Plants+ MURALIDHARAN N A R A Y A N A N , * LAWRENCE C. DAVIS,§ A N D LARRY E. ERICKSON*f' Departments of Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506

The fate oftwo volatile organo chlorinated compounds, 1,1,1 -trichloroethane (TCA) and trichloroethylene (TCE), was studied in rhizosphere soil. Laboratory experiments were performed with alfalfa (Medicago sativa) growing in sandy silt soil fed continuously with groundwater contaminated with TCA and TCE at 50 and 200 pUL, respectively. Methane generated in the groundwater provided evidence for anaerobic biodegradation. Groundwater samples indicated that the concentration of TCE decreased with axial position during the steady-state period. The flow rate of the effluent was significantly less than the inlet flow because of active evapotranspiration. Thus, a significant fraction of TCA and TCE disappeared. Headspace analysis of the gas in the enclosed chamber using a FT-IR spectrophotometer showed that small quantities of TCA and TCE migrated into the gas phase above the alfalfa plants; no chlorinated intermediates or methane were found in this gas phase.

Introduction Chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons, such as l,l,l-trichloroethane (TCA) and trichloroethylene (TCE),are commonly used as metal degreasing agents, as dry cleaning and industrial solvents, as refrigerants, and as fumigants (133). It is also reported that these chlorinated compounds are the most frequently found contaminants at Superfund sites. Presently, the detection of these pollutants in soils and groundwater of industrial cities is becoming more widespread. This is of concern because TCA and TCE, in particular, are suspected human carcinogensand mutagens (3). Therefore, the presence of TCA and TCE in soils and groundwater would constitute a major health risk to the human population relying on groundwater for drinking. The maximum contamination levels (MCL) as enforced under the Safe Drinking Water Act are 100 pg/L for TCA * Corresponding author telephone: (913) 532-4313; fax: (913) 5327372. Presented at the 1994 AIChE Summer Meeting, Denver, CO. Department of Chemical Engineering. § Department of Biochemistry.

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0013-936x/95/0929-2437$09.00/0

0 1995 American Chemical Society

and range from 1 to 5pg/LforTCE (3,4).Industrial effluents and landfill leachates are also common sources of these compounds in contaminated soils and groundwater (4). Bioremediationof soils and groundwater contaminated with TCA and TCE can be performed in situ where contaminants are treated in the place of occurrence (1419). This is one of the most economically attractive remediation methods for cleanup, especially when compared to traditional pump-and-treat technology. Anaerobic conditions that exist in relatively deep subsurface soil environments lead to anoxic biotransformation of TCE prevalent in soils and groundwater. Evidence for microorganisms that could anaerobically transform TCE under methanogenic conditions was provided by Vogel and McCarty (5),Belay and Daniels (s), and Bouwer and McCarty (7). For TCA, biotransformation was observed under both methanogenic (7-9) and sulfate-reducing (9) conditions. It was shown that anaerobic transformation of chlorinated compounds generally results in the formation of more toxic intermediate products such as dichloroethylenes (DCEs) and vinyl chloride (VC) (5-9). As the MCL for VC is only about 1 pglL ( 3 , 41, in situ anaerobic transformation of chlorinated compounds is less preferred. In 1985, Wilson and Wilson (10) observed aerobic biodegradation of TCE by enriched methane-utilizing bacteria previously exposed to air containing 0.6% natural gas comprised of 78%methane. Aerobic biotransformation of TCE by bacteria enriched on methane was demonstrated subsequently by other investigators (11, 12). Biodegradation of TCE under aerobic conditions was found to occur through a cometabolic mechanism. Cometabolic Transformation. Cometabolic transformation is a process by which microbes that derive energy and growth by degrading a beneficial primary substrate can concomitantlytransform other nonbeneficialsubstrate analogs (4-19). Several investigators have demonstrated in situ cometabolic transformation of chlorinated solvents prevalent at contaminated sites. Speitel and Closmann (13) showed that biorestoration of unsaturated soils is possible by enriching the microbes with nutrients and a primary growth and energy-yieldingsubstrate. Field studies performed at the Moffett Naval Air Station, California, confirmed aerobic in situ biotransformation of TCE (up to 30%) by methane-utilizing bacteria. Groundwater containing dissolved methane and oxygen when injected into the aquifer in alternating pulses, stimulated the growth of the native population of methanotrophic bacteria (14). Hopkins et al. (15)reported cometabolictransformation of TCE in the presence of microorganisms growing on phenol as the primary substrate and noted that other researchers had also demonstrated similar cometabolic degradation of TCE by microorganisms growing on other beneficial substrates such as ethylene, propane, cresol, ammonia, and isoprene. Similar cometabolic transformation of TCE in the presence of toluene-utilizing microorganisms was also reported (16).Recently, at the St. Joseph, MI, Bendix plant site, investigators have reported in situ anaerobic biotransformation of approximately 20% of TCE to ethylene in the presence of acetate as primary substrate (17-19).

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Plant-Based Bioremediation. Bioremediation in the presenceof vegetation is receiving increasing attention (20331. Vegetationcanplayasignificant role in bioremediating contaminated soils and groundwater (27-331. However, research studies to identify the role of vegetation in the bioremediation of chlorinated compounds are limited (21. 26-28, 33, 34).

In natural plant ecosystems, indigenous soil microorganisms present in the rhizosphere (root zone ofthe plants) are found in mutual relationships with plants (35). The rhizosphere, which sustains a genetically diverse variety of

microhiotaisthelocationfordegradationofmanyorganics (28,31-33). Therootsoftheplantsexudeawidespectrum of compounds including sugars, amino acids, carbohydrates, and essential vitamins that may act as growth and energy-yielding substrates for the microbial consortia in the root zone. Exudates may also include compounds such as acetates, esters, and benzene derivatives (31, 35). The process of enriching the in situ microbial popula-

tionsforenhanceddegradationoforganicsbytheprovision of appropriate beneficial primary substrates supplied by vegetation has been reviewed recently (28.33). Moreover, investigators have also reported enhanced biodegradation of TCE in rhizosphere soils in comparison to non-rhizosphere soils. In 1990,Walton and Anderson (21)reported enhanced biodegradation ofTCE in the rhizosphere soil as compared to non-vegetatedsoilswithoutplantroots. They observed from 20-30% of TCE to be mineralized to COz in vegetated soils. Recently, Ferro et al. (26)have shown that establishing crested wheatgrass on PCP-contaminated surface soil may accelerate, by as much as 3-fold, the removal of the contaminant. Plant growth was affected when theinitialconcentration ofPCPwas 100mg/kgofdry soil. Stomp et al. (27)are studying the uptake and fate of TCE in a poplar hybrid H-11-11 transformed with appropriate genes. They observed up to 85%ofTCE removed hy these trees grown hydroponically. Wang and Jones (34) studied the fate ofchlorobenzenesin the presence ofcarrots and the significance of plant uptake of these compounds from soils. They found that the plant uptake of these compounds was insignificant compared to the amount of compound applied to the soil. The objectives of this research were to investigate the possible extent of biodegradation of TCE and TCA in the rhizosphere of alfalfa plants growing in a laboratoly chamber and to simultaneously monitor the generation of any toxic biodegradation intermediates that might be formed during plant-based bioremediation. Since several others have demonstrated and established earlier that enhanced biodegradationoccurs in vegetated soil environments relative to nonvegetated soils (20,21.26-28,32), no controlexperimentwas attempted. Themovement ofwater and solutes to root surfaces and the presence of primary substrates to support the microbial population are wellknown differences (23-33).

Materials and Methods Chamber Construction. The channel employed earlier for investigating the potential of alfalfa plants to bioremediate soils and groundwatercontaminatedwith phenolwas used in this study. The design and construction of the experimental setup was described previously (24, 32). The COnStNCted chamber consisted of two identical U-shaped channels each 10 cm in width, approximately 1.8 m in axial flow length, and 35 cm in depth (Figures 1

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2438 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE&TECHNOLOGY I VOL. 29. NO. 9.1995

FIGURE 1. Schematic view of the axially extended experimental setup; the ectual chamber is 0.9 m long es shown in Figure 2.

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and 2). The channels were packed with sandy silt soil (silt