Enhanced Natural Attenuation of MTBE

  • Mario Schirmer
  • Marion Martienssen
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC)


MTBE contamination in groundwater is an increasing environmental problem and treatment costs using conventional remediation technologies will increase if water is contaminated by MTBE. Generally, natural attenuation (NA) and enhanced natural attenuation (ENA) are possible low-cost alternatives to conventional techniques. Since biodegradation of MTBE is comparably slow under field conditions and often limited by the environmental conditions, optimizing these conditions within the framework of an ENA approach can be a useful means to enhance the natural degradation process.

One potential limitation of the ENA approach is that MTBE is mineralized by only a few specialized bacteria and mainly under aerobic conditions. Co-metabolic biotransformation of MTBE by aerobic, alkane-degrading bacteria has also been reported. Although several studies have demonstrated anaerobic biodegradation, anaerobic MTBE degradation rates are very low compared to aerobic rates.

Introducing a source of pure oxygen into a MTBE-contaminated aquifer has been shown to be a successful means to enhance biodegradation efficiency. At higher organic loadings, H2O2 can be used as an additional oxygen source. There is also some evidence that nitrate can be used as an alternative electron acceptor. Recent investigations have also demonstrated enhanced MTBE degradation under methanogenic conditions generated by the dosing of electron donors such as alcohols.

For the field application of ENA measures, different technological solutions such as direct gas, slurry or liquid injections have been developed during the past few years.


Biodegradation Ground water Enhanced natural attenuation MTBE 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario Schirmer
    • 1
  • Marion Martienssen
  1. 1.Department of HydrogeologyUFZ—Helmholtz Center for Environmental ResearchHalleGermany

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