Remediation of PCE-contaminated aquifer by an in situ two-layer biobarrier: Laboratory batch and column studies

C. M. Kao, S. C. Chen, J. Y. Wang, Y. L. Chen, S. Z. Lee

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86 Scopus citations


The industrial solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) is among the most ubiquitous chlorinated compounds found in groundwater contamination. The objective of this study was to develop an in situ two-layer biobarrier system consisting of an organic-releasing material layer followed by an oxygen-releasing material layer. The organic-releasing material, which contained sludge cakes from a domestic wastewater treatment plant, is able to release biodegradable organics continuously. The oxygen-releasing material, which contained calcium peroxide, is able to release oxygen continuously upon contact with water. The first organic-releasing material layer was to supply organics (primary substrates) to reductively dechlorinate PCE in situ. The second oxygen-releasing material layer was to release oxygen to aerobic biodegrade or cometabolize PCE degradation byproducts from the first anaerobic layer. Batch experiments were conducted to design and identify the components of the organic and oxygen-releasing materials, and evaluate the organic substrate (presented as chemical oxygen demand (COD) equivalent) and oxygen release rates from the organic-releasing material and oxygen-releasing materials, respectively. The observed oxygen and COD release rates were approximately 0.0368 and 0.0416mg/d/g of material, respectively. A laboratory-scale column experiment was then conducted to evaluate the feasibility of this proposed system for the bioremediation of PCE-contaminated groundwater. This system was performed using a series of continuous-flow glass columns including a soil column, an organic-releasing material column, two consecutive soil columns, and an oxygen-releasing material column, followed by two other consecutive soil columns. Anaerobic acclimated sludges were inoculated in the first four columns, and aerobic acclimated sludges were inoculated in the last three columns to provide microbial consortia for contaminant biodegradation. Simulated PCE-contaminated groundwater with a flow rate of 0.25L/d was pumped into this system. Effluent samples from each column were analyzed for PCE and its degradation byproducts. Results show that up to 99% of PCE removal efficiency was obtained in this passive system. Thus, the biobarrier treatment scheme has the potential to be developed into an environmentally and economically acceptable remediation technology for the in situ treatment of PCE-contaminated aquifer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalWater Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003


  • Biobarrier
  • Cometabolism
  • Groundwater remediation
  • Reductive dechlorination
  • Tetrachloroethylene


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