Natural attenuation of petroleum hydrocarbons—a study of biodegradation effects in groundwater (Vitanovac, Serbia)

  • Nenad MarićEmail author
  • Ivan Matić
  • Petar Papić
  • Vladimir P. Beškoski
  • Mila Ilić
  • Gordana Gojgić-Cvijović
  • Srđan Miletić
  • Zoran Nikić
  • Miroslav M. Vrvić


The role of natural attenuation processes in groundwater contamination by petroleum hydrocarbons is of intense scientific and practical interest. This study provides insight into the biodegradation effects in groundwater at a site contaminated by kerosene (jet fuel) in 1993 (Vitanovac, Serbia). Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), hydrochemical indicators (O2, NO3, Mn, Fe, SO42−, HCO3), δ13C of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and other parameters were measured to demonstrate biodegradation effects in groundwater at the contaminated site. Due to different biodegradation mechanisms, the zone of the lowest concentrations of electron acceptors and the zone of the highest concentrations of metabolic products of biodegradation overlap. Based on the analysis of redox-sensitive compounds in groundwater samples, redox processes ranged from strictly anoxic (methanogenesis) to oxic (oxygen reduction) within a short distance. The dependence of groundwater redox conditions on the distance from the source of contamination was observed. δ13C values of DIC ranged from − 15.83 to − 2.75‰, and the most positive values correspond to the zone under anaerobic and methanogenic conditions. Overall, results obtained provide clear evidence on the effects of natural attenuation processes—the activity of biodegradation mechanisms in field conditions.


Groundwater Petroleum hydrocarbons Natural attenuation Biodegradation Stable isotopes 


Funding information

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.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nenad Marić
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ivan Matić
    • 2
  • Petar Papić
    • 2
  • Vladimir P. Beškoski
    • 3
    • 4
  • Mila Ilić
    • 4
  • Gordana Gojgić-Cvijović
    • 4
  • Srđan Miletić
    • 4
  • Zoran Nikić
    • 1
  • Miroslav M. Vrvić
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of ForestryUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  2. 2.Faculty of Mining and GeologyUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  3. 3.Faculty of ChemistryUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  4. 4.Institute of Chemistry, Technology and Metallurgy, Department of ChemistryUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia

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