The influence of biogeochemical conditions and level of model complexity when simulating cometabolic biodegradation in sorbent-water systems.
Citation:Haws NW, Bouwer EJ, Ball WP. The influence of biogeochemical conditions and level of model complexity when simulating cometabolic biodegradation in sorbent-water systems. Advances in Water Resources 2006;29(4):571-589.
Eighteen models with different levels of complexity for representing sorption, mass transfer, and biodegradation are used to simulate the biodegradation of toluene (primary substrate) and TCE (cometabolic substrate). The simulations are conducted for hypothetical completely mixed systems of various scenarios with regard to sorbent, microbial composition, and solute concentrations. The purpose of the suite of simulations is to investigate the sensitivity of different modeling approaches in simulating the bio-attenuation of co-existing solutes in sorbent-water systems. The sensitivity of results to the modeling approach depends on the biogeochemical conditions of the system. For example, the results are insensitive to the type of sorption model in systems with low sorption strength and slow biodegradation rates, and insensitive to the biodegradation rate model if mass transfer controlled. Differences among model results are generally greater when evaluated in terms of total mass removal rather than aqueous phase concentration reduction. The fate of the cometabolite is more sensitive to the proper consideration of co-solute effects than is the fate of the primary substrate. For a given system, graphical comparison of a characteristic mass transfer rate coefficient (αmt) versus a characteristic biodegradation rate coefficient (αbio) provides an indication of how sensitivity to the different processes may be expected to change with time and can guide the selection of an appropriate level of model complexity.