Biodegradation in Contaminated Aquifers: Incorporating Microbial/Molecular Methods


U.S. Geological Survey, 431 National Center, Reston, VA 20192; (703) 648-5899; fax: (703) 648-5274;


In order to evaluate natural attenuation in contaminated aquifers, there has been a recent recognition that a multidisciplinary approach, incorporating microbial and molecular methods, is required. Observed decreases in contaminant mass and identified footprints of biogeochemical reactions are often used as evidence of intrinsic bioremediation, but characterizing the structure and function of the microbial populations at contaminated sites is needed. In this paper, we review the experimental approaches and microbial methods that are available as tools to evaluate the controls on microbially mediated degradation processes in contaminated aquifers. We discuss the emerging technologies used in biogeochemical studies and present a synthesis of recent studies that serve as models of integrating microbiological approaches with more traditional geochemical and hydrogeologic approaches in order to address important biogeochemical questions about contaminant fate.