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Keywords:

  • degraders;
  • gasworks;
  • groundwater;
  • microbial diversity;
  • PAH;
  • permeable reactive barrier;
  • soil

Abstract

Aims:  To investigate the distribution of a polymicrobial community of biodegradative bacteria in (i) soil and groundwater at a former manufactured gas plant (FMGP) site and (ii) in a novel SEquential REactive BARrier (SEREBAR) bioremediation process designed to bioremediate the contaminated groundwater.

Methods and Results:  Culture-dependent and culture-independent analyses using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the detection of 16S ribosomal RNA gene and naphthalene dioxygenase (NDO) genes of free-living (planktonic groundwater) and attached (soil biofilm) samples from across the site and from the SEREBAR process was applied. Naphthalene arising from groundwater was effectively degraded early in the process and the microbiological analysis indicated a dominant role for Pseudomonas and Comamonas in its degradation. The microbial communities appeared highly complex and diverse across both the sites and in the SEREBAR process. An increased population of naphthalene degraders was associated with naphthalene removal.

Conclusion:  The distribution of micro-organisms in general and naphthalene degraders across the site was highly heterogeneous. Comparisons made between areas contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and those not contaminated, revealed differences in the microbial community profile. The likelihood of noncultured bacteria being dominant in mediating naphthalene removal was evident.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  This work further emphasizes the importance of both traditional and molecular-based tools in determining the microbial ecology of contaminated sites and highlights the role of noncultured bacteria in the process.