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Compound-specific isotope analysis was used to study a contaminated site near Kingsford, Michigan, USA. Organic compounds at three of the sites studied had similar ??13C values indicating that the contaminant source is the same for all sites. At a fourth site, chemical and ??13C values had evolved due to microbial degradation of organics, with the ??13C being much heavier than the starting materials. A microcosm experiment was run to observe isotopic changes with time in the methane evolved and in compounds remaining in the water during degradation. The ??13C values of the methane became heavier during the initial period of the run when volatile fatty acids were being consumed. There was an abrupt decrease in the ??13C values when fatty acids had been consumed and phenols began to be utilized. The ??13C value of the propionate remaining in solution also increased, similar to the results found in the field.
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Compound-specific carbon isotope analysis of a contaminant plume in Kingsford, Michigan, USA