Intrinsic bioremediation of chlorinated ethenes in anaerobic aquifers previously has not been considered feasible, due, in large part, to 1) the production of vinyl chloride during microbial reductive dechlorination of higher chlorinated contaminants and 2) the apparent poor biodegradability of vinyl chloride under anaerobic conditions. In this study, a combination of field geochemical analyses and laboratory radiotracer ([1,2-14C] vinyl chloride) experiments was utilized to assess the potential for intrinsic biodegradation of vinyl chloride contamination in an Fe(III)-reducing, anaerobic aquifer. Microcosm experiments conducted under Fe(III)-reducing conditions with material from the Fe(III)-reducing, chlorinated-ethene contaminated aquifer demonstrated significant oxidation of [1,2-14C] vinyl chloride to 14CO2 with no detectable production of ethene or other reductive dehalogenation products. Rates of degradation derived from the microcosm experiments (0.9-1.3% d-1) were consistent with field-estimated rates (0.03-0.2% d-1) of apparent vinyl chloride degradation. Field estimates of apparent vinyl chloride biodegradation were calculated using two distinct approaches; 1) a solute dispersion model and 2) a mass balance assessment. These findings demonstrate that degradation under Fe(III) reducing conditions can be an environmentally significant mechanism for intrinsic bioremediation of vinyl chloride in anaerobic ground-water systems.
Additional publication details
Field and laboratory evidence for intrinsic biodegradation of vinyl chloride contamination in a Fe(III)-reducing aquifer