Biotreatment of groundwater contaminated with MTBE: interaction of common environmental co-contaminants.
Contamination of groundwater with the gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is often accompanied by many aromatic components such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, o-xylene, m-xylene and p-xylene (BTEX). In this study, a laboratory-scale biotrickling filter for groundwater treatment inoculated with a microbial consortium degrading MTBE was studied. Individual or mixtures of BTEX compounds were transiently loaded in combination with MTBE. The results indicated that single BTEX compound or BTEX mixtures inhibited MTBE degradation to varying degrees, but none of them completely repressed the metabolic degradation in the biotrickling filter. Tert-butyl alcohol (TBA), a frequent co-contaminant of MTBE had no inhibitory effect on MTBE degradation. The bacterial consortium was stable and showed promising capabilities to remove TBA, ethylbenzene and toluene, and partially degraded benzene and xylenes without significant lag time. The study suggests that it is feasible to deploy a mixed bacterial consortia to degrade MTBE, BTEX and TBA at the same time.
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