Methane oxidation was measured in an unconfined sand and gravel aquifer (Cape Cod, Mass.) by using in situ natural-gradient tracer tests at both a pristine, oxygenated site and an anoxic, sewage-contaminated site. The tracer sites were equipped with multilevel sampling devices to create target grids of sampling points; the injectate was prepared with groundwater from the tracer site to maintain the same geochemical conditions. Methane oxidation was calculated from breakthrough curves of methane relative to halide and inert gas (hexafluoroethane) tracers and was confirmed by the appearance of 13C-enriched carbon dioxide in experiments in which 13C-enriched methane was used as the tracer. A V(max) for methane oxidation could be calculated when the methane concentration was sufficiently high to result in zero-order kinetics throughout the entire transport interval. Methane breakthrough curves could be simulated by modifying a one-dimensional advection-dispersion transport model to include a Michaelis-Menten-based consumption term for methane oxidation. The K(m) values for methane oxidation that gave the best match for the breakthrough curve peaks were 6.0 and 9.0 ??M for the uncontaminated and contaminated sites, respectively. Natural-gradient tracer tests are a promising approach for assessing microbial processes and for testing in situ bioremediation potential in groundwater systems.
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In situ measurement of methane oxidation in groundwater by using natural-gradient tracer tests