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A one-step solution for remediating two challenging groundwater contaminants

By Mary Page Bailey |

A research team from the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT; Newark, N.J.; www.njit.edu) Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science has discovered a new bacterium that may help to alleviate concerns about two of the most pervasive and toxic groundwater contaminants — 1,4-dioxane and 1,1-dichloroethylene (1,1-DCE). A common industrial solvent, 1,4-dioxane is frequently found concurrently with 1,1-DCE in groundwater. The combination of these two chemicals makes environmental remediation especially daunting, since they react very differently to treatment solutions and often require two separate remediation techniques, driving up the costs and complexity of groundwater treatment. Compounding the problem, 1,1-DCE has been shown to contribute to 1,4-dioxane’s resistance to traditional treatment methods. However, the new bacterium discovered by NJIT is said to be the first remediation method capable of simultaneous biodegradation of both 1,4-dioxane and 1,1-DCE.

The new bacterium, known as DD4, was first discovered in activated sludge samples from a municipal wastewater-treatment facility. In field tests, DD4 was shown to degrade a sample containing 10 parts per million (ppm) of 1,4-dioxane down to just 0.38 parts per billion (ppb). Additionally, the concentration of 1,1-DCE in the sample was reduced from 3 ppm to less than 0.02 ppm. The new bacterium also shows promise in halting 1,1-DCE’s inhibition of other bacterial degradation methods for 1,4-dioxane.

Moving forward, the NJIT team hopes to continue characterization of DD4 to better understand its enzymatic activity. They see much promise in DD4’s application into larger-scale groundwater-remediation processes, due to several contributing factors. According to NJIT, unlike other bacterial treatments, DD4 does not aggregate in water, but rather disperses freely, enabling remediation of larger sites. Also, DD4 is said to culture rapidly and remain stable and viable over several days under normal refrigeration conditions, simplifying logistics for its delivery to remediation sites.

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