Aerobic Biodegradation of Methyl tert-Butyl Ether by Aquifer Bacteria from Leaking Underground Storage Tank Sites

S. R. Kane, H. R. Beller, T. C. Legler, C. J. Koester, H. C. Pinkart, R. U. Halden, A. M. Happel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

74 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5824-5829
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Volume67
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology

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