Biostimulation of aromatic hydrocarbon mixture degradation in a former gaswork site

Since the start of the industrial revolution a wide variety of organic chemicals has been released into the environment through anthropogenic activity. One of major concerns affecting the groundwater quality and aquifer ecosystem health is contamination with aromatic hydrocarbons because of their relatively high water solubility, toxicity, and carcinogenicity.

As an efficient and eco-friendly treatment method, in situ bioremediation of contaminated soils and groundwater by naturally occurring microorganisms or by bioaugmentation of adapted microorganisms is possible. Therefore, the aim of
this study is to develop a new approach for the biostimulation of aromatic hydrocarbon degradation that could also be applied to many different polluted sites.

Technological challenge

In the presence of oxygen, aromatic hydrocarbons can be rapidly degraded. However, groundwater and soil environments are mostly anoxic. Therefore, it is necessary to artificially improve the degradation activity of indigenous microorganisms for an efficient remediation approach.

Engineered bioremediation is usually applied to speed up the biodegradation process by addition of nutrients, electron acceptors, bioaugmentation or other stimulants. In this project, our target area is Griftpark (Utrecht) which used to be a manufactured gas plant site. The soil and the groundwater is currently contaminated with high concentrations of BTEX, indene, indane and naphthalene.

In this project:

  • The effect of different electron acceptors on the biodegradation of a hydrocarbon mixture present in Griftpark will be tested.
  • Changes in microbiome dynamics within different redox conditions will be studied by use of molecular techniques.
  • The presence of O2 producing microorganisms in Griftpark will be investigated
    hereby the formed O2 can be used by the microorganism for aerobic catabolic pathways in an anoxic environment, suggesting an ecophysiological niche space of substantial appeal for bioremediation.