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Water Science & Technology Vol 43 No 2 pp 277–284 © IWA Publishing 2001

Aerobic biodegradation of gasoline oxygenates MTBE and TBA

GJ Wilson*, AP Richter**, MT Suidan*** and AD Venosa****

* Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221, USA
** Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221, USA
*** Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221, USA
**** U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45268, USA


ABSTRACT
MTBE degradation was investigated using a continuously stirred tank reactor (CSTR) with biomass retention (porous pot reactor) operated under aerobic conditions. MTBE was fed to the reactor at an influent concentration of 150 mg/l (1.70 mmol/l). A second identical reactor was operated as a control under the same conditions with the addition of 2.66 g/l of sodium azide, to kill any biological activity. Results from these experiments suggest that biomass retention is critical to the degradation of MTBE. The rate of MTBE removal was shown to be related to the VSS concentration. MTBE removal exceeded 99.99% when the VSS concentration in the reactor was over 600 mg/l. Results obtained from batch experiments conducted on mixed liquor samples from the porous pot reactor indicate that the individual rates of biodegradation of MTBE and TBA were higher for initial concentrations of 15 mg/l than for concentrations of 5 mg/l. The presence of TBA at lower concentrations did not effect the rate of MTBE degradation, however higher concentrations of TBA did reduce the rate of biodegradation of MTBE. Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis reveals that the culture consisted of a community of bacterial organisms of about 6 species.

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