Influence of substrate exposure history on biodegradation in a porous medium

J. Park, Y. M. Chen, J. J. Kukor, L. M. Abriola

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6 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the influence of fluctuating toluene concentrations on aerobic toluene degradation in a sandy porous medium colonized with Ralstonia pickettii PKO1. Column effluent toluene concentrations were found to increase after a temporary decrease in influent toluene concentration. Subsequent examination of the spatial gradient of toluene degradative activity in the column suggested that the observed increase in effluent toluene concentrations was attributable to an adverse effect of toluene limitation on the biodegradative activity of attached cells. The traditional Michaelis-Menten-type biodegradation equation associated with batch-measured Vmax (2.26 mgtoluene/mgliving cell/day) and KS (1.20 mgtoluene/l) of nonstarved cells was unable to predict the observed toluene breakthrough behavior when the column had been previously exposed to no-toluene conditions. An alternative modeling approach was developed based upon the assumptions that (i) degradative activity was completely deactivated within the no-toluene exposure period (53.5 h) and (ii) a lag-phase was present prior to the subsequent reactivation of degradative activity in previously toluene-starved cells. These assumptions were independently verified by batch microbial investigations, and the modified model provided a good fit to the same observed toluene breakthrough curve. Application of single lag-time and threshold concentration values, however, failed to predict observed toluene breakthrough under different toluene exposure conditions. Results of this experimental and modeling investigation suggested that substrate exposure history, including the length of the starvation period and the level of substrate concentration, affected the induction of biodegradation in the porous medium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-256
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Ms. Shakuntala L. Fathepure for her assistance in biomass quantification. This research was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences through Superfund Basic Research Program grant P42-ES-04911. The content of this paper does not necessarily represent the views of the agency.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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