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The use of chlorate, nitrate, and perchlorate to promote crude oil mineralization in salt marsh sediments


Due to the high volume of crude oil released by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the salt marshes along the gulf coast were contaminated with crude oil. Biodegradation of crude oil in salt marshes is primarily limited by oxygen availability due to the high organic carbon content of the soil, high flux rate of S2−, and saturated conditions. Chlorate, nitrate, and perchlorate were evaluated for use as electron acceptors in comparison to oxygen by comparing oil transformation and mineralization in mesocosms consisting of oiled salt marsh sediment from an area impacted by the BP Horizon oil spill. Mineralization rates were determined by measuring CO2 production and δ 13C of the produced CO2 and compared to transformation evaluated by measuring the alkane/hopane ratios over a 4-month period. Total alkane/hopane ratios decreased (~55–70 %) for all treatments in the following relative order: aerated ≈ chlorate > nitrate > perchlorate. Total CO2 produced was similar between treatments ranging from 550–700 mg CO2-C. The δ 13C-CO2 values generally ranged between the indigenous carbon and oil values (−17 and −27 ‰, respectively). Oil mineralization was greatest for the aerated treatments and least for the perchlorate amended. Our results indicate that chlorate has a similar potential as oxygen to support oil mineralization in contaminated salt marshes, but nitrate and perchlorate were less effective. The use of chlorate as a means to promote oil mineralization in situ may be a promising means to remediate contaminated salt marshes while preventing unwanted secondary impacts related to nutrient management as in the case of nitrate amendments.

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We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and the assistance of Dr. Michael Blum at Tulane University.

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Correspondence to W. Andrew Jackson.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Brundrett, M., Horita, J., Anderson, T. et al. The use of chlorate, nitrate, and perchlorate to promote crude oil mineralization in salt marsh sediments. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 15377–15385 (2015).

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  • Chlorate
  • Perchlorate
  • Nitrate
  • Salt marshes
  • Deepwater Horizon oil spill
  • Biodegradation
  • Crude oil
  • Mineralization