The potential for aerobic methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) degradation was investigated with microcosms containing aquifer sediment and groundwater from four MTBE-contaminated sites characterized by oxygen-limited in situ conditions. MTBE depletion was observed for sediments from two sites (e.g., 4.5 mg/liter degraded in 15 days after a 4-day lag period), whereas no consumption of MTBE was observed for sediments from the other sites after 75 days. For sediments in which MTBE was consumed, 43 to 54% of added [U-14C]MTBE was mineralized to 14CO2. Molecular phylogenetic analyses of these sediments indicated the enrichment of species closely related to a known MTBE-degrading bacterium, strain PM1. At only one site, the presence of water-soluble gasoline components significantly inhibited MTBE degradation and led to a more pronounced accumulation of the metabolite tert-butyl alcohol. Overall, these results suggest that the effects of oxygen and water-soluble gasoline components on in situ MTBE degradation will vary from site to site and that phylogenetic analysis may be a promising predictor of MTBE biodegradation potential.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology