This study reports on benzene and toluene biodegradation under different dissolved oxygen conditions, and the goal of this study is to evaluate and model their removal.
Benzene and toluene were tested for obligate anaerobic degradation in batch reactors with sulfate as the electron acceptor. A group of sulfate-reducing bacteria capable of toluene degradation was enriched after 252 days of incubation. Those cultures, originated from anaerobic digester, were able to degrade toluene coupled to sulfate reduction with benzene coexistence, while they were not able to utilize benzene. Methanogens also were present, although their contribution to toluene biodegradation was not defined.
Aerobic biodegradation of benzene and toluene by Pseudomonas putida F1 occurred, and biomass production lagged behind substrate loss and continued after complete substrate removal. This pattern suggests that biodegradation of intermediates, rather than direct benzene and toluene transformation, caused bacterial growth. Supporting this explanation is that the calculated biomass growth from a two-step model basically fit the experimental biomass results during benzene and toluene degradation with depleted dissolved oxygen.
Catechol was tested for anaerobic biodegradation in batch experiments and in a column study. Sulfate- and nitrate-reducing bacteria enriched from a wastewater treatment plant hardly degraded catechol within 20 days. However, an inoculum from a contaminated site was able to remove 90% of the initial 16.5 mg/L catechol, and Chemical Oxygen Demand was oxidized in parallel. Catechol biodegradation was inhibited when nitrite accumulated, presumably by a toxic catechol-nitrite complex.
The membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR) offers the potential for biodegrading benzene in a linked aerobic and anaerobic pathway by controlling the O2 delivery. At an average benzene surface loading of 1.3 g/m2-day and an average hydraulic retention time of 2.2 day, an MBfR supplied with pure O2 successfully achieved 99% benzene removal at steady state. A lower oxygen partial pressure led to decreased benzene removal, and nitrate removal increased, indicating multiple mechanisms, including oxygenation and nitrate reduction, were involved in the system being responsible for benzene removal. Microbial community analysis indicated that Comamonadaceae, a known aerobic benzene-degrader and denitrifier, dominated the biofilm at the end of operation.