Hydrochemistry of groundwater contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons: the impact of biodegradation (Vitanovac, Serbia)

  • Nenad MarićEmail author
  • Jana Štrbački
  • Sanja Mrazovac Kurilić
  • Vladimir P. Beškoski
  • Zoran Nikić
  • Snežana Ignjatović
  • Jovana Malbašić
Original Research


Aquifer contamination by petroleum hydrocarbons leads to measurable changes of groundwater hydrochemistry, primarily due to the microbiological activity. This study analyzes this phenomenon at an historical kerosene-contaminated site in Vitanovac (central Serbia). Due to the long-term hydrocarbon contamination and exposure to aerobic and anaerobic biodegradation mechanisms, the lowest concentrations of O2, NO3, and SO42− (electron acceptors) and the highest concentrations of Mn and Fe (products of microbial metabolic activity) overlap. The terminal redox-accepting processes in groundwater ranged from oxygen reduction to sulfate reduction. The most anoxic processes were registered in piezometers closest to the source of contamination, as was also confirmed by the redox potential (Eh) measurements. High electrical conductivity values and the highest TOC, SiO2, and Al concentrations also overlap in the contaminated zone close to the source of contamination. Scanning electron microscopy study of quartz grains from the zone undergoing the impact of biodegradation confirmed the occurrence of weathering microscale processes on mineral surfaces. Taking all these factors together, it seems reasonable to assume that microbiological activity has caused the enhanced weathering of silicate minerals.


Groundwater Hydrochemistry Contamination Petroleum hydrocarbons Biodegradation 



This study was supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia under Grant No. III 43004 and Grant No. OI 176018.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ForestryUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  2. 2.Faculty of Mining and GeologyUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  3. 3.Faculty of Ecology and Environmental ProtectionUniversity Union - Nikola TeslaBelgradeSerbia
  4. 4.Faculty of ChemistryUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia

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