Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 98, Issue 3, pp 1329–1338 | Cite as

Biodegradation of low concentrations of 1,2-dibromoethane in groundwater is enhanced by phenol

  • Kyunghwa Baek
  • Meng Wang
  • Robert McKeever
  • Kahlil Rieber
  • Chul Park
  • Klaus NüssleinEmail author
Environmental biotechnology


The lead scavenger 1,2-dibromoethane (EDB), a former additive to leaded gasoline, is a common groundwater contaminant, yet not much knowledge is available for its targeted bioremediation, especially under in situ conditions. The study site was an aviation gas spill site, which, although all hydrocarbons and most of the EDB were remediated in the mid-1990s, still exhibits low levels of EDB remaining in the groundwater (about 11 μg EDB/l). To evaluate the effect of phenol on biostimulation of low concentration of EDB, microcosms were established from an EDB-contaminated aquifer. After 300 days at environmentally relevant conditions (12 ± 2 °C, static incubation), EDB was not significantly removed from unamended microcosms compared to the abiotic control. However, in treatments amended with phenol, up to 80 % of the initial EDB concentration had been degraded, while added phenol was removed completely. Microbial community composition in unamended and phenol-amended microcosms remained unchanged, and Polaromonas sp. dominated both types of microcosms, but total bacterial abundance and numbers of the gene for phenol hydroxylase were higher in phenol-amended microcosms. Dehalogenase, an indicator suggesting targeted aerobic biodegradation of EDB, was not detected in either treatment. This finding suggests phenol hydroxylase, rather than a dehalogenation reaction, may be responsible for 1,2-dibromoethane oxidation under in situ conditions. In addition, biostimulation of EDB is possible through the addition of low levels of phenol in aerobic groundwater sites.


Biostimulation Cometabolism 1,2-dibromoethane Groundwater Natural attenuation Phenol 



This research was funded by the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment (AFCEE). We thank AFCEE/CH2M HILL for providing us with soil core and groundwater samples.

Supplementary material

253_2013_4963_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (260 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 260 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyunghwa Baek
    • 1
  • Meng Wang
    • 2
  • Robert McKeever
    • 2
  • Kahlil Rieber
    • 1
  • Chul Park
    • 2
  • Klaus Nüsslein
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil & Environmental EngineeringUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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