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Water Science & Technology Vol 56 No 3 pp 57–62 © IWA Publishing 2007 doi:10.2166/wst.2007.520

Biodegradation of chlorobenzene in a constructed wetland treating contaminated groundwater

M. Braeckevelt** , H. Rokadia*, G. Mirschel** , S. Weber*, G. Imfeld*, N. Stelzer*, P. Kuschk** , M. Kästner**  and H.H. Richnow*

*Department of Isotope Biogeochemistry, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research-UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 , Leipzig, Germany (E-mail: hemalrok@yahoo.com; stefanie.weber@ufz.de; gwenael.imfeld@ufz.de; nicole.stelzer@ufz.de; hans.richnow@ufz.de)
** Department of Bioremediation, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research-UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 , Leipzig, Germany (E-mail: mareike.braeckevelt@ufz.de; gabriele.mirschel@iom-leipzig.de; peter.kuschk@ufz.de; matthias.kaestner@ufz.de


Monochlorobenzene (MCB) is an important groundwater contaminant world-wide. In this study, a horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetland with an integrated water compartment was fed with MCB contaminated groundwater originating from the local aquifer. Analysis of spatial concentration dynamics of MCB and oxygen was combined with isotope composition analysis of MCB for assessing in situ biodegradation. Removal of MCB was most effective in the upper layer of the soil filter, reaching up to 77.1%. Trace oxygen concentrations below 0.16 mg L-1 were observed throughout the wetland transect, suggesting a considerable limitation of aerobic microbial MCB degradation. Enrichment of 13C in the residual MCB fraction at increasing distance from the inflow point indicated microbial MCB degradation in the wetland. The observed isotope shift was higher than expected for aerobic MCB degradation and thus pointed out a significant contribution of an anaerobic degradation pathway to the overall biodegradation.

Keywords: Biodegradation; carbon isotope fractionation; constructed wetland; monochlorobenzene; oxygen

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