Denitrification in a sand and gravel aquifer

Applied and Environmental Microbiology
By:  and 


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Denitrification was assayed by the acetylene blockage technique in slurried core material obtained from a freshwater sand and gravel aquifer. The aquifer, which has been contaminated with treated sewage for more than 50 years, had a contaminant plume greater than 3.5-km long. Near the contaminant source, groundwater nitrate concentrations were greater than 1 mM, whereas 0.25 km downgradient the central portion of the contaminant plume was anoxic and contained no detectable nitrate. Samples were obtained along the longitudinal axis of the plume (0 to 0.25 km) at several depths from four sites. Denitrification was evident at in situ nitrate concentrations at all sites tested; rates ranged from 2.3 to 260 pmol of N20 produced (g of wet sediment)-' h-'. Rates were highest nearest the contaminant source and decreased with increasing distance downgradient. Denitrification was the predominant nitrate-reducing activity; no evidence was found for nitrate reduction to ammonium at any site. Denitrifying activity was carbon limited and not nitrate limited, except when the ambient nitrate level was less than the detection limit, in which case, even when amended with high concentrations of glucose and nitrate, the capacity to denitrify on a short-term basis was lacking. These results demonstrate that denitrification can occur in groundwater systems and, thereby, serve as a mechanism for nitrate remoyal from groundwater.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Denitrification in a sand and gravel aquifer
Series title Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume 54
Issue 5
Year Published 1988
Language English
Publisher American Society for Microbiology
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 8 p.
First page 1071
Last page 1078