Laboratory evidence of MTBE biodegradation in Borden aquifer material
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Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
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Mainly due to intrinsic biodegradation, monitored natural attenuation can be an effective and inexpensive remediation strategy at petroleum release sites. However, gasoline additives such as methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) can jeopardize this strategy because these compounds often degrade, if at all, at a slower rate than the collectively benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and the xylene (BTEX) compounds. Investigation of whether a compound degrades under certain conditions, and at what rate, is therefore important to the assessment of the intrinsic remediation potential of aquifers. A natural gradient experiment with dissolved MTBE-containing gasoline in the shallow, aerobic sand aquifer at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden (Ontario, Canada) from 1988 to 1996 suggested that biodegradation was the main cause of attenuation for MTBE within the aquifer. This laboratory study demonstrates biologically catalyzed MTBE degradation in Borden aquifer-like environments, and so supports the idea that attenuation due to biodegradation may have occurred in the natural gradient experiment. In an experiment with batch microcosms of aquifer material, three of the microcosms ultimately degraded MTBE to below detection, although this required more than 189 days (or >300 days in one case). Failure to detect the daughter product tert-butyl alcohol (TBA) in the field and the batch experiments could be because TBA was more readily degradable than MTBE under Borden conditions. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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