Hydrogeochemical and microbiological methods were used to characterize temporal changes along a transect of an aquifer contaminated by mixed hydrocarbon and solvent wastes from fire training activities at Wurtsmith Air Force Base (Oscoda, MI). Predominant terminal electron accepting processes (TEAPs) as measured by dissolved hydrogen indicated reoxygenation along the transect between October 1995 and October 1996, possibly because of recharge, fluctuations in water table elevation, or microbial activity. Microbiological analyses using universal and archaeal probes revealed a relationship between groundwater hydrogen concentration, TEAP, and predominant bacterial phylogeny. Specifically, a raised water table level and evidence of methanogenesis corresponded to an order of magnitude increase in archaeal 16S rRNA relative to when this zone was unsaturated. Spatial microbial and geochemical dynamics did not result in measurable differences in trichloroethylene (TCE) mineralization potential in vadose, capillary fringe, and saturated zone soils during a 500-day microcosm experiment using unprocessed contaminated soil and groundwater. Aerobic systems indicated that methane, but not toluene, may serve as cosubstrate for TCE cometabolism. Anaerobic microcosms demonstrated evidence for methanogenesis, CO2 production and hydrogen consumption, yet dechlorination activity was only observed in a microcosm with sulfate-reduction as the dominant TEAP. Mass balance calculations indicated less than 5% mineralization, regardless of redox zone or degree of saturation, at maximum rates of 0.01-0.03 ??mol/g soil??d. The general lack of dechlorination activity under laboratory conditions corroborates the limited evidence for natural dechlorination at this site, despite abundant electron donor material and accumulated organic acids from microbial degradation of alkylbenzenes. Thus, the short-term temporal dynamics in redox conditions is unlikely to have measurable effects on the long-term natural remediation potential of the aquifer.
Additional Publication Details
Effects of dynamic redox zonation on the potential for natural attenuation of trichloroethylene at a fire-training-impacted aquifer
Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Part B: Hydrology, Oceans and Atmosphere