Identifying the Signature of Natural Attenuation in the Microbial Ecology of Hydrocarbon Contaminated Groundwater Using Molecular Methods and "Bug Traps"

EPA Grant Number: R827015C027
Subproject: this is subproject number 027 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R827015
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: IPEC University of Tulsa (TU)
Center Director: Sublette, Kerry L.
Title: Identifying the Signature of Natural Attenuation in the Microbial Ecology of Hydrocarbon Contaminated Groundwater Using Molecular Methods and "Bug Traps"
Investigators: Sublette, Kerry L. , Ford, Laura P. , Peacock, A. , White, David C
Institution: University of Tulsa
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: March 1, 2003 through February 28, 2004
RFA: Integrated Petroleum Environmental Consortium (IPEC) (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Targeted Research

Objective:

The most important mechanism of natural attenuation leading to destruction of the contaminants in groundwater is intrinsic bioremediation. It has now been clearly established that BTEX hydrocarbons are amenable to microbial degradation even in the absence of oxygen under the right conditions with respect to geochemistry, environmental parameters, and microbial ecology. More recently it has been shown that aliphatic hydrocarbons are also susceptible to anaerobic biodegradation by similar mechanisms. When clear proof of natural attenuation exists and environmental receptors will not be threatened during the life of a hydrocarbon plume, a risk-based management approach can be both cost- effective and protective of human health and ecological receptors.

However, gathering the necessary evidence for natural attenuation can itself be a costly undertaking. Conventional indicators of intrinsic bioremediation include the distribution of hydrocarbons, metabolites, and the correlation of temporal trends with the concentrations and distributions of geochemical parameters (electron acceptors, products of reduction of electron acceptors, DO, redox potential, hydrogen, etc.). These data are typically collected over the entire plume and in suitable control areas over a period of time at significant cost. The actual extend of site characterization required to support a risk-based management strategy varies from state to state. However, the goals remain the same: to deduce the prevalent bioprocesses in the subsurface and to determine whether natural attenuation will prevent exposure of environmental receptors to the hydrocarbon plume. With respect to the prevalent bioprocesses the key word here is deduced - that is, these data amount to circumstantial evidence of intrinsic bioremediation. What is needed is a definitive signature. We propose that this signature lies in the in situ microbial ecology and that this signature can be obtained a reduced cost compared to more conventional site investigations.

Approach:

We propose to search for the signature of intrinsic bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbons in the microbial ecology of the contaminated groundwater. The principal field site to be used in this project is the Brewer's pooling unit of a Ft. Lupton, CO gas production site currently operated by Kerr-McGee Corp. This site was formerly operated by Amoco Production Co. and was for seven years the subject of an intensive site investigation of the mechanisms of intrinsic bioremediation of gas condensate hydrocarbons which contaminate groundwater at the site. The site contains an elaborate network of groundwater monitoring wells in both the plume and an upgradient control or uncontaminated area. Over seven years (1993-1999) of quarterly groundwater monitoring data are available, as well as the results of an intensive investigation of the vadose zone (1998-1999) and the results of numerous microcosm studies using sediments from the site. All of these data support the intrinsic bioremediation of gas condensate hydrocarbons at the site by aerobic and anaerobic mechanisms (principally sulfate reduction and methanogenesis) and a stable or shrinking plume. These data were used to support the acceptance of a risk- based management strategy of the site by the Colorado Dept. of Environmental Quality. One of us (Sublette) was a principal investigator on both the groundwater and vadose zone studies and is very familiar with the site and the data. For comparison we will also use two other field sites near Hobbs, NM contaminated with gasoline by leaking USTs which have been characterized to a lesser extent.

Expected Results:

It is hypothesized that the in situ microbiota contain a signature of past and present hydrocarbon exposure and utilization. A comprehensive measure of the in situ microbial ecology of a site will yield the identity of this signature. We maintain that a definition of hydrocarbon natural attenuation in terms of a site's microbial ecology is direct and definitive, whereas a definition in terms of contaminant chemistry and/or geochemistry or hydrology is indirect and inferential. It is well established that indigenous microbes generate various compounds within their cellular structure (biomarkers) that reflect in situ conditions. Therefore, the microbial community contains a record of the sum microbial response to the environment that is written from changes in the biochemistry of individual organisms. We propose that these responses, in association with knowledge of available electron acceptors and donors of a site, will define the signature of a successful hydrocarbon natural attenuation process at a low cost.

Supplemental Keywords:

RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Waste, Water, TREATMENT/CONTROL, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Contaminated Sediments, Remediation, Environmental Chemistry, Treatment Technologies, Chemicals, Oil Spills, Hazardous Waste, Bioremediation, Chemistry and Materials Science, Water Pollutants, Groundwater remediation, Hazardous, Environmental Engineering, sediment treatment, petroleum, bug traps, natural attenutation, petrogenic waste, contaminant transport, leaking underground storage tanks, microbial degradation, contaminated sediment, remediation technologies, petroleum industry, MTBE, risk assessment model, risk management, chemical contaminants, contaminated soil, BTEX, groundwater aquifer, oil spill, gasoline leaks, oil removal, contaminated groundwater, groundwater contamination, crude oil, hydrocarbons, contaminated aquifers, groundwater, aquifer remediation

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R827015    IPEC University of Tulsa (TU)

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R827015C001 Evaluation of Road Base Material Derived from Tank Bottom Sludges
    R827015C002 Passive Sampling Devices (PSDs) for Bioavailability Screening of Soils Containing Petrochemicals
    R827015C003 Demonstration of a Subsurface Drainage System for the Remediation of Brine-Impacted Soil
    R827015C004 Anaerobic Intrinsic Bioremediation of Whole Gasoline
    R827015C005 Microflora Involved in Phytoremediation of Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons
    R827015C006 Microbial Treatment of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM)
    R827015C007 Using Plants to Remediate Petroleum-Contaminated Soil
    R827015C008 The Use of Nitrate for the Control of Sulfide Formation in Oklahoma Oil Fields
    R827015C009 Surfactant-Enhanced Treatment of Oil-Contaminated Soils and Oil-Based Drill Cuttings
    R827015C010 Novel Materials for Facile Separation of Petroleum Products from Aqueous Mixtures Via Magnetic Filtration
    R827015C011 Development of Relevant Ecological Screening Criteria (RESC) for Petroleum Hydrocarbon-Contaminated Exploration and Production Sites
    R827015C012 Humate-Induced Remediation of Petroleum Contaminated Surface Soils
    R827015C013 New Process for Plugging Abandoned Wells
    R827015C014 Enhancement of Microbial Sulfate Reduction for the Remediation of Hydrocarbon Contaminated Aquifers - A Laboratory and Field Scale Demonstration
    R827015C015 Locating Oil-Water Interfaces in Process Vessels
    R827015C016 Remediation of Brine Spills with Hay
    R827015C017 Continuation of an Investigation into the Anaerobic Intrinsic Bioremediation of Whole Gasoline
    R827015C018 Using Plants to Remediate Petroleum-Contaminated Soil
    R827015C019 Biodegradation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons in Salt-Impacted Soil by Native Halophiles or Halotolerants and Strategies for Enhanced Degradation
    R827015C020 Anaerobic Intrinsic Bioremediation of MTBE
    R827015C021 Evaluation of Commercial, Microbial-Based Products to Treat Paraffin Deposition in Tank Bottoms and Oil Production Equipment
    R827015C022 A Continuation: Humate-Induced Remediation of Petroleum Contaminated Surface Soils
    R827015C023 Data for Design of Vapor Recovery Units for Crude Oil Stock Tank Emissions
    R827015C024 Development of an Environmentally Friendly and Economical Process for Plugging Abandoned Wells
    R827015C025 A Continuation of Remediation of Brine Spills with Hay
    R827015C026 Identifying the Signature of the Natural Attenuation of MTBE in Goundwater Using Molecular Methods and "Bug Traps"
    R827015C027 Identifying the Signature of Natural Attenuation in the Microbial Ecology of Hydrocarbon Contaminated Groundwater Using Molecular Methods and "Bug Traps"
    R827015C028 Using Plants to Remediate Petroleum-Contaminated Soil: Project Continuation
    R827015C030 Effective Stormwater and Sediment Control During Pipeline Construction Using a New Filter Fence Concept
    R827015C031 Evaluation of Sub-micellar Synthetic Surfactants versus Biosurfactants for Enhanced LNAPL Recovery
    R827015C032 Utilization of the Carbon and Hydrogen Isotopic Composition of Individual Compounds in Refined Hydrocarbon Products To Monitor Their Fate in the Environment
    R830633 Integrated Petroleum Environmental Consortium (IPEC)
    R830633C001 Development of an Environmentally Friendly and Economical Process for Plugging Abandoned Wells (Phase II)
    R830633C002 A Continuation of Remediation of Brine Spills with Hay
    R830633C003 Effective Stormwater and Sediment Control During Pipeline Construction Using a New Filter Fence Concept
    R830633C004 Evaluation of Sub-micellar Synthetic Surfactants versus Biosurfactants for Enhanced LNAPL Recovery
    R830633C005 Utilization of the Carbon and Hydrogen Isotopic Composition of Individual Compounds in Refined Hydrocarbon Products To Monitor Their Fate in the Environment
    R830633C006 Evaluation of Commercial, Microbial-Based Products to Treat Paraffin Deposition in Tank Bottoms and Oil Production Equipment
    R830633C007 Identifying the Signature of the Natural Attenuation in the Microbial Ecology of Hydrocarbon Contaminated Groundwater Using Molecular Methods and “Bug Traps”
    R830633C008 Using Plants to Remediate Petroleum-Contaminated Soil: Project Continuation
    R830633C009 Use of Earthworms to Accelerate the Restoration of Oil and Brine Impacted Sites