Five aerobic cultures capable of degrading MTBE under different substrate conditions were developed using porous pot chemostat reactors. The five substrate conditions were: MTBE alone, MTBE and DEE, MTBE and DIPE, MTBE and EtOH, and MTBE and BTEX. All five cultures demonstrated greater
than 99.9% removal of MTBE, with an influent concentration of 150 mg/L for the MTBE only reactor, 75 mg/L for the DEE, DIPE, and EtOH reactors, and 85 mg/L for the BTEX reactor. The bacterial communities of the reactors were monitored periodically by DGGE analysis in order
to determine when a biological steady state was achieved. At this time, complete phylogenectic analysis was done in order to determine the identity of the bacteria. All cultures were found to be mixed cultures. Members of the order Cytophagales, within the Phylum Flexibacter-Bacterioides-Cytophaga
inhabited all reactors. Members of the α- Proteobacteria were also found, but only in reactors which had an alternative substrate (MTBE and DIPE and MTBE and EtOH). One member of Nitrospina, a little-known uncultured Division, was found in the MTBE only reactor. Though
the same groups of organisms prevailed in the reactors, the individual species were shown to be different. This means that a diversity of MTBE degraders exists, and that each thrives under different substrate conditions. This also suggests that Cytophagales may play a key role in the
degradation of MTBE in water.
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