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Anaerobic biodegradation of gasoline oxygenates in soils

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This study evaluated the biodegradation of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE), and tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA)—three chemicals used as gasoline additives. The biodegradation under sulfate reducing, methanogenic and denitrifying conditions was measured in static soil and water microcosms using soils of different origin and varying characteristics. The results indicate that TBA was the easiest compound to biodegrade, whereas MTBE was the most recalcitrant. It is thought that cleavage of the ether bond in MTBE and ETBE is the first and rate-limiting step in the degradation of these organics. TBA degradation was enhanced by nutrient addition in the nutrient poor soils but hindered by the presence of other easily-degraded organic compounds. Degradation of MTBE and ETBE occurred only in the soil with the lowest organic matter content and with a pH around 5.5. No degradation of MTBE and ETBE was observed in the organic-rich soils, and in the organically poor soil the addition of easily degradable organic compounds inhibited MTBE and ETBE degradation.

Keywords: anaerobic treatment; biodegradation; gasoline; hazardous wastes; soils

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1994-07-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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