Groundwater contamination is an extremely important topic in environmental science. Ex-situ removal of contaminants is costly and largely ineffective on contaminants that have high vapor pressures and readily mix with water. Bioremediation or bio-augmentation are attractive alternative ways to remediate a site, as they may require less work and be more cost-effective.
Groundwater samples from a superfund site contaminated with chlorinated compounds and other volatile organic compounds. Samples were enriched to select for organisms capable of degrading cyclic ethers, specifically tetrahydrofuran and 1,4-dioxane. The isolates were tested for their degradation capacity and to determine if they were impacted by the presence of aliphatic chlorinated compounds.
Consortia of organisms were isolated and grow readily on rich media as well as in high concentrations of tetrahydrofuran and 1,4-dioxane (616 mM THF, 586 mM 1,4-dioxane). They were also shown to be able to grow readily in the presence of, and directly on, tetrachloroethylene (0.2 mM).
Previous research done at the source of the organisms has shown the presence of functional and phylogenetic genes that may co-metabolize tetrahydrofuran and 1,4-dioxane. This research has confirmed the previous hypothesis that degradation was occurring by microorganisms on site. 16sRNA analysis was completed on the isolates, and the majority of organisms have not been previously seen in degradation of these compounds. Commonly known degraders were not found in the samples, suggesting other degradation pathways are being used.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Cyclic compounds--Biodegradation; Ethers--Biodegradation; Groundwater--Pollution
Environmental Science (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)
Thompson, Rowan, "Degradation of cyclic ethers by microorganisms isolated from contaminated groundwater" (2017). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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