Final Report: Enhanced Microbial Dechlorination of PCBs and Dioxins in Contaminated Dredge Spoils

EPA Grant Number: R825511C025
Subproject: this is subproject number 025 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R825511
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: HSRC (1989) - Northeast HSRC
Center Director: Sidhu, Sukh S.
Title: Enhanced Microbial Dechlorination of PCBs and Dioxins in Contaminated Dredge Spoils
Investigators: Haggblom, Max , Vargas, Cecilia
Institution: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: January 15, 1997 through January 14, 1999
RFA: Hazardous Substance Research Centers - HSRC (1989) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Substance Research Centers , Land and Waste Management


The goal of the current project is to develop and demonstrate the feasibility of a microbial technology for remediation of sediments contaminated with mixtures of PCBS, dioxins and chlorinated pesticides. The focus is on identifying environmental conditions and amendments that can initiate dechlorination by indigenous microbial communities. Biological processes based on the metabolic activities of anaerobic bacteria are attractive since reductive dechlorination of PCBS, dioxins and chlorinated pesticides can significantly reduce the toxicity of the sediments, and have the potential for complete degradation of the contaminants. Reducing the toxicity of the sediments and dredge spoils would allow for alternative disposal solutions or beneficial uses.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

Rationale: The management of contaminated sediments and dredge spoils from the New York/New Jersey harbor has become a major problem with far-reaching economic consequences for the region. The current dredging situation is causing a serious problem for many shipping companies in the Port of New York and New Jersey. Usually about 7 million cubic yards of silt must be removed every year to maintain the ports and shipping channels. Over 60% of the sediments and dredge spoils are contaminated with toxic organic and inorganic compounds, including PCBS, dioxins, and chlorinated pesticides, such as DDT. There is therefore a serious demand for environmentally safe and economically feasible technologies for treatment of sediments and dredge spoils.

Approach: Anaerobic dehalogenation of chlorinated compounds in contaminated sediments has been widely demonstrated, and this makes in-situ biological remediation of contaminated sediments a potential treatment solution. The naturally occurring dechlorination unfortunately has a number of short-comings: 1) the transformation rate is extremely slow, especially at lower PCB levels such as those found in the New York/New Jersey Harbor, and 2) the presence of sulfate in marine sediments may inhibit dechlorination. Furthermore, since the sediments are contaminated with a mixture of chlorinated contaminants (PCBS, dioxins, DDT residues) methodologies that would stimulate the dechlorination (and detoxification) of all these components are needed. The intrinsic rates of PCB, dioxin and DDT dehalogenation need to be significantly enhanced for a bioremediation technology to be practical.

The approach of the proposed project is to identify conditions and chemical amendments for stimulating dechlorination by microbial populations present in the contaminated sediments, focusing on how to stimulate intrinsic microbial populations to dechlorinate and degrade PCBS and dioxins at the existing levels by: 1) Stimulation of a dehalogenating microbial population by the addition of a brominated aromatic compound or a single PCB congener; 2) Addition of alternative carbon sources (fatty acids, methanol, etc.) to provide a carbon and energy source to drive reductive dechlorination; 3) Examination of the influence of sulfate on dechlorination. Sulfate levels can be reduced by the addition of appropriate carbon sources stimulating sulfate reduction, and carbon additions can therefore serve a two-fold purpose.

Status: Our ongoing work has advanced the understanding of the role of diverse anaerobic microbial communities in the degradation of halogenated aromatic compounds, and how their activities can be exploited for remediation of contaminated sediments. We have demonstrated that the dechlorination of PCBS and dioxins in the estuarine sediments of the NY/NJ Harbor can be stimulated by addition of additives. High sulfate concentrations inhibit dechlorination and dechlorination was only observed under methanogenic conditions. 2,3,4,5,6-Pentachlorobiphenyl was sequentially dechlorinated at the para and meta positions to 2,6-dichlorobiphenyl and 2,4,6-trichloro-biphenyl and primed the dechlorination of Aroclor 1260. We have also demonstrated that dioxins can be reductively dechlorinated by microorganisms in the harbor sediments, using 1,2,3,4-tetrachloro-dibenzo-dioxin as a model. In methanogenic sediment slurries 1,2,3,4-tetraCDD was dechlorinated in the lateral position to 1,2,4-triCDD, and further to a diCDD. Whether this lateral dechlorination can be stimulated for polyCDDs is central to their detoxification. The project will continue the initial exploratory work necessary for the future consideration of bioremediation as a possible method of decontaminating dredge spoils sediment, either as an in-situ / intrinsic process or in a bioreactor-type setting of dredged sediments.

Technology Transfer And Outreach Plan: At the Biotechnology Center, the transfer of new discoveries to industry is aided by cooperative research programs with New Jersey's agricultural, chemical, pharmaceutical, bioremediation, and biotechnology corporations. The center pursues a variety of strategies to accelerate the application of its research results and serve industry's needs. These range from individual research contracts, site visits, and advisory assistance for entrepreneurial new companies, to innovative partnerships with industry funded by the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology. Two entrepreneurial companies specializing in environmental clean-up have been launched with the Center's support: Envirogen (Princeton) and Phytotech (Monmouth Junction). These Biotech Center - industry connections provide strong partnerships for the technology transfer process.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 3 publications for this subproject

Supplemental Keywords:

Biodegradation, Dechlorination, PCBs, Dioxins, Dredge Spoils., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Waste, Geographic Area, Chemical Engineering, Contaminated Sediments, Environmental Chemistry, Remediation, State, Analytical Chemistry, Hazardous Waste, Ecology and Ecosystems, Environmental Engineering, Hazardous, hazardous waste management, hazardous waste treatment, risk assessment, sediment treatment, dioxin, anaerobic biodegradability, environmental technology, contaminant transport, microbial degradation, contaminated marine sediment, soil and groundwater remediation, wetland sediment, lead, contaminated sediment, remediation technologies, chemical contaminants, chemical transport, contaminated soil, New Jersey (NJ), marine sediments, PCB, reductive dechlorination, technology transfer, extraction of metals, groundwater

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 1997

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R825511    HSRC (1989) - Northeast HSRC

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R825511C001 Development of Mechanisms and Kinetic Models on Formation of Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-Dioxins and Dibenzofurans from Aromatic Precursors
    R825511C002 Real-Time Monitoring and Control of Emissions from Stationary Combustors and Incinerators
    R825511C003 Development of Sampling Systems for Continuous Monitoring of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
    R825511C004 Investigation into the Effectiveness of DNAPL Remediation Strategies in Fractured Media
    R825511C005 Advanced Leak Detection and Location Research: Extending the SERDP-funded Technical Base
    R825511C006 Three-Dimensional Geostatistical Site Characterization with Updating
    R825511C007 Anaerobic Biodegradation of PAHs in Soils and Dredged Sediments: Characterizing, Monitoring and Promoting Remediation
    R825511C008 Substrate Accelerated Death and Extended Lag Phases as Causes of the Recalcitrance of Halogenated Compounds in Anoxic Environments
    R825511C009 Fate and Transport of Nonionic Surfactants
    R825511C010 In Situ Degradation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons and PAHs in Contaminated Salt Marsh Sediments
    R825511C011 Design and Operation of Surfactant-Enhanced Bioslurry Reactors
    R825511C012 Experimental Study of Overland Transport of Cryptosporidium parvum Oocysts
    R825511C013 Development of a Framework for Evaluation of Leaching from Solid Waste
    R825511C014 Use of a New Leaching Test Framework for Evaluating Alternative Treatment Processes for Mercury Contaminated Mixed Waste (Hazardous and Radioactive)
    R825511C015 Field Pilot Test of In Situ Ultrasonic Enhancement Coupled With Soil Fracturing to Detoxify Contaminated Soil
    R825511C016 Development of Sampling Systems for Continuous Monitoring of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
    R825511C017 Field Demonstration of the Use of Reactive Zero-Valence Iron Powder to Treat Source Zone Sites Impacted by Halogenated Volatile Organic Chemicals
    R825511C018 Technology Transfer of Continuous Non-Methane Organic Carbon (C-NMOC) Analyzer
    R825511C019 Field Sampling and Treatability Study for In-Situ Remediation of PCB's and Leachable Lead with Iron Powder
    R825511C020 Experimental and Modeling Studies of Chlorocarbon Incineration, PIC Formation, and Emissions Control
    R825511C021 Experimental Studies and Numerical Modeling of Turbulent Combustion During Thermal Treatment of Hazardous Wastes: Applied Research for the Generation of Design and Diagnostic Tools
    R825511C022 Electrochemical Sensor for Heavy Metals in Groundwater - Phase IV
    R825511C023 Novel Molecular Tools for Monitoring In-Situ Bioremediation
    R825511C024 Surfactant-Enhanced Bioremediation of Soils in the Presence of an Organic Phase
    R825511C025 Enhanced Microbial Dechlorination of PCBs and Dioxins in Contaminated Dredge Spoils
    R825511C026 Toward A Risk-Based Model for Bioremediation of Multicomponent NAPL Contaminants
    R825511C027 Removal and Recovery of VOCs and Oils from Surfactant-Flushed Recovered Water by Membrane Permeation
    R825511C029 Field Pilot Test of In-Situ Ultrasonic Enhancement Coupled With Soil Fracturing to Detoxify Contaminated Soil in Cooperation with McLaren/Hart Environmental Engineers at the Hillsborough, NJ Site
    R825511C030 In-Situ Field Test of Electroremediation of a Chromate-Contaminated Site in Hudson County, New Jersey
    R825511C031 Electrokinetic Removal of Heavy Metals and Mixed Hazardous Wastes from Partially and Fully Saturated Soils
    R825511C032 Effects of Clay Charge and Confining Stresses on Soil Remediation by Electroosmosis
    R825511C033 Assessment of Surfactant Enhanced Bioremediation for Soils/Aquifers Containing Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
    R825511C034 In-Situ Bioremediation of Organic Compounds: Coupling of Mass Transfer and Biodegradation
    R825511C035 Investigation into the Effectiveness of DNAPL Remediation Strategies in Fractured Media
    R825511C036 Field Pilot Scale Demonstration of Trench Bio-Sparge: An In-Situ Groundwater Treatment Technology
    R825511C037 In-Situ Reductive Dehalogenation of Aliphatic Compounds by Fermentative Heterotrophic Bacteria
    R825511C038 The Effect of Carbon-Nitrogen Ratios on Bacterial Transport and Biodegradation Rates In Soils
    R825511C039 Ultrasonic Enhancement of Soil Fracturing Technologies for In-Situ Detoxification of Contaminated Soil
    R825511C040 Full Field Demonstration of Integrated Pneumatic Fracturing and In-Situ Bioremediation
    R825511C041 Determination of Adsorption and Desorption Behavior of Petroleum Products on Soils
    R825511C042 Evaluation of the Potential for Complete Bioremediation of NAPL-Contaminated Soils Containing Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
    R825511C043 Characterization of Subsurface NAPL Distributions at Heterogeneous Field Sites
    R825511C044 Development of a Thermal Desorption Gas Chromatograph/Microwave Induced Plasma/Mass Spectrometer (TDGC/MIP/MS) for On-site Analysis of Organic and Metal Contaminants
    R825511C045 Using Trainable Networks for a Three-dimensional Characterization of Subsurface Contamination
    R825511C046 Application of Advanced Waste Characterization to Soil Washing and Treatment
    R825511C047 Electrochemical Sensor for Heavy Metals in Groundwater Phase III
    R825511C048 Improved Luminescence Sensors for Oxygen Measurement
    R825511C049 Preconcentration, Speciation and Determination of Dissolved Heavy Metals in Natural Waters, using Ion Exchange and Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry
    R825511C050 Experimental and Modeling Studies of Chlorocarbon Incineration and PIC Formation
    R825511C051 PIC Emission Minimization: Fundamentals and Applications
    R825511C052 Project Title: Development of a Two Stage, Pulse Combustion, VOC Destruction Technology
    R825511C053 Development of Sampling Systems for Continuous Monitoring of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
    R825511C054 FTIR Analysis of Gaseous Products from Hazardous Waste Combustion
    R825511C055 Toxic Metals Volatilization for Waste Separation and Real-time Metals Analyses
    R825511C056 Mixed Metal Removal and Recovery by Hollow Fiber Membrane-Based Extractive Adsorber
    R825511C057 Removal of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from Contaminated Groundwater and Soils by Pervaporation
    R825511C058 Simultaneous SO2/NO Removal/Recovery by Hollow Fiber Membrane
    R825511C059 Superfund Sites and Mineral Industries Method
    R825511C060 Soil Washing of Mixed Organics/Metal Contamination
    R825511C061 Removal of Cesium, Strontium, Americium, Technetium and Plutonium from Radioactive Wastewater
    R825511C062 Development of a Method for Removal of Nonvolatile Organic Materials from Soil using Flotation
    R825511C063 Recovery of Evaporative Fuel Losses by Vapor Permeation Membranes
    R825511C064 Surfactant Selection Protocol for Ex Situ Soil Washing
    R825511C065 Biofiltration for the Control of Toxic Industrial VOCs Emissions
    R825511C066 Catalytic Oxidation of Volatile Organic Compounds in Water
    R825511C067 Soil Washing for Remediating Metal Contaminated Soils
    R825511C068 Aqueous Absorption and Kinetics of NO by Strong Oxidizing Agents
    R825511C069 Remediation of Dredging Spoils
    R825511C070 Freeze Concentration for Zero-Effluent Processes
    R825511C071 Life Cycle/Pollution Prevention Response to Executive Order 12856
    R825511C072 Faster Better, Cheaper Hazardous Waste Site Characterization and Cleanup: an Adaptive Sampling and Analysis Strategy Employing Dynamic Workplans
    R825511C073 Development of a Comprehensive Computer Model for the Pneumatic Fracturing Process
    R825511C074 Technology Demonstration and Validation of CFAST Field Analytical Instrumentation for Use in Hazardous Waste Site Characterization, Clean-up and Monitoring
    R825511C075 XFLOW: Training Software Simulating Contaminant Site Characterization and Remediation