, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 371-381
Date: 08 Nov 2006

Degradation of BTX by dissimilatory iron-reducing cultures

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The ability of indigenous bacteria to anaerobically degrade monoaromatic hydrocarbons has received attention as a potential strategy to remediate polluted aquifers. Despite the fact that iron-reducing conditions are often dominating in contaminated sediment, most of the studies have focussed on degradation of this class of pollutants with other terminal acceptors. In this work, we enriched bacteria from an iron-reducing aquifer in which a plume of pollution has developed over several decades and we show that benzene, toluene, meta- and para-xylene (BTX) could be degraded by the enriched cultures containing intrinsic iron-reducing microorganisms. To our knowledge, this is the first time that para-xylene degradation by dissimilatory iron-reducing bacteria has been reported in sediment free enrichment cultures. BTX degradation rates in enrichment cultures progressively increased in time and were found in good agreement with theoretical values calculated assuming complete BTX oxidation with Fe(II) as final electron acceptor. In addition, using labelled (13C1) benzene and toluene we could unambiguously identify intermediates of their respective degradation pathways. We provide evidence for benzene degradation via phenol formation under iron-reducing conditions, whereas toluene and meta-xylene were transformed into the corresponding benzylsuccinates.