RNAS Remediation Products

Principles and practices of enhanced anaerobic bioremediation of chlorinated solvents


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The Department of Defense (DoD) has identified hundreds of sites where groundwater is contaminated with chlorinated solvents; these represent one of the DoD’s largest remediation liabilities. In addition to their use in many industrial processes, chlorinated solvents have historically been used for cleaning and degreasing such diverse products as aircraft engines, automobile parts, electronic components, and clothing in the military and commercial sectors. Chlorinated solvents were often released to the subsurface environment in waste water or in the form of dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs). As a result of their physical and chemical properties, DNAPLs are difficult to remediate once they have migrated into groundwater aquifers. Enhanced in situ anaerobic bioremediation can be an effective method of degrading various chlorinated solvents dissolved in groundwater, including chloroethenes, chloroethanes, and chloromethanes. Collectively, these compounds (some of which are degradation products of chlorinated solvents) are referred to as chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons (CAHs). Advantages of enhanced anaerobic bioremediation include complete mineralization of the contaminants in situ with little impact on infrastructure and relatively low cost compared to more active engineered remedial systems. Numerous government entities, private industries, and university researchers have applied a variety of organic substrates to promote anaerobic reductive dechlorination of chlorinated solvents to innocuous end products. Large-scale anaerobic bioremediation projects have been initiated and are showing promising and even remarkable results. However, in light of the recent advances in the science and technology associated with enhanced anaerobic bioremediation, it is expected that research may increase not only the range of sites (e.g., DNAPL source areas) and contaminants amenable to this approach, but also will improve on the current practices in terms of the tools available to implement and monitor bioremediation.Therefore, enhanced anaerobic bioremediation holds promise as a method to address remediation of chlorinated solvents in groundwater.

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