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Microbial Mineralization of Dichloroethene and Vinyl Chloride under Hypoxic Conditions

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Mineralization of 14C‐radiolabled vinyl chloride ([1,2‐14C] VC) and cis‐dichloroethene ([1,2‐14C] cis‐DCE) under hypoxic (initial dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations about 0.1 mg/L) and nominally anoxic (DO minimum detection limit = 0.01 mg/L) was examined in chloroethene‐exposed sediments from two groundwater and two surface water sites. The results show significant VC and dichloroethene (DCE) mineralization under hypoxic conditions. All the sample treatments exhibited pseudo‐first‐order kinetics for DCE and VC mineralization over an extended range of substrate concentrations. First‐order rates for VC mineralization were approximately 1 to 2 orders of magnitude higher in hypoxic groundwater sediment treatments and at least three times higher in hypoxic surface water sediment treatments than in the respective anoxic treatments. For VC, oxygen‐linked processes accounted for 65 to 85% of mineralization at DO concentrations below 0.1 mg/L, and 14CO2 was the only degradation product observed in VC treatments under hypoxic conditions. Because the lower detection limit for DO concentrations measured in the field is typically 0.1 to 0.5 mg/L, these results indicate that oxygen‐linked VC and DCE biodegradation can be significant under field conditions that appear anoxic. Furthermore, because rates of VC mineralization exceeded rates of DCE mineralization under hypoxic conditions, DCE accumulation without concomitant accumulation of VC may not be evidence of a DCE degradative “stall” in chloroethene plumes. Significantly, mineralization of VC above the level that could reasonably be attributed to residual DO contamination was also observed in several nominally anoxic (DO minimum detection limit = 0.01 mg/L) microcosm treatments.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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