Date: 21 Nov 2012

Co-contamination of water with chlorinated hydrocarbons and heavy metals: challenges and current bioremediation strategies

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Abstract

Chlorinated hydrocarbons can cause serious environmental and human health problems as a result of their bioaccumulation, persistence and toxicity. Improper disposal practices or accidental spills of these compounds have made them common contaminants of soil and groundwater. Bioremediation is a promising technology for remediation of sites contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons. However, sites co-contaminated with heavy metal pollutants can be a problem since heavy metals can adversely affect potentially important biodegradation processes of the microorganisms. These effects include extended acclimation periods, reduced biodegradation rates, and failure of target compound biodegradation. Remediation of sites co-contaminated with chlorinated organic compounds and toxic metals is challenging, as the two components often must be treated differently. Recent approaches to increasing biodegradation of organic compounds in the presence of heavy metals include the use of dual bioaugmentation; involving the utilization of heavy metal-resistant bacteria in conjunction with an organic-degrading bacterium. The use of zero-valent irons as a novel reductant, cyclodextrin as a complexing agent, renewable agricultural biosorbents as adsorbents, biosurfactants that act as chelators of the co-contaminants and phytoremediation approaches that utilize plants for the remediation of organic and inorganic compounds have also been reported. This review provides an overview of the problems associated with co-contamination of sites with chlorinated organics and heavy metals, the current strategies being employed to remediate such sites and the challenges involved.