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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances


U.S. Geological Survey Toxic Substances Hydrology Program--Proceedings of the Technical Meeting, Colorado Springs, Colorado, September 20-24, 1993, Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4015

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Bioremediation of Petroleum and Metal Contamination with Dissimilatory Metal Reduction


Derek R. Lovley (U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Va.)


The possibility that the metabolism of dissimilatory metal-reducing microorganisms might be used for removing organic contaminants and metals from contaminated environments was investigated. The Fe(III) chelator, nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) enhanced the degradation of toluene in petroleum-contaminated aquifer material in which Fe(III) reduction was the terminal electron-accepting process. Addition of Fe(III) oxide containing sediments stimulated toluene degradation in sediments that were originally methanogenic. These results suggest that increasing the availability of Fe(III) may be a useful bioremediation strategy in aquifers that are heavily contaminated with aromatic compounds. Studies on the mechanism for U(VI) reduction by Desulfovibrio vulgaris indicated that cytochrome c3 is the U(VI) and Cr(VI) reductase. Cytochrome c3 reduced U(VI) in uranium-contaminated mine drainage and ground water. This finding indicates that it may be possible to genetically engineer microorganisms with enhanced metal-reducing capacity. These studies demonstrate that dissimilatory metal reduction may be a useful mechanism for bioremediating organic and (or) metal contamination in some environments.

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