Engineered in situ biogeochemical transformation as a secondary treatment following ISCO – A field test

ISCO using activated sodium persulphate is a widely used technology for treating chlorinated solvent source zones. In sensitive areas, however, high groundwater sulphate concentrations following treatment may be a drawback. In situ biogeochemical transformation, a technology that degrades contaminants via reduced iron minerals formed by microbial activity, offers a potential solution for such sites, the bioreduction of sulphate and production of iron sulphides that abiotically degrade chlorinated ethenes acting as a secondary technology following ISCO. This study assesses this approach in the field using hydrochemical and molecular tools, solid phase analysis and geochemical modelling. Following a neutralisation and bioaugmentation, favourable conditions for iron- and sulphate-reducers were created, resulting in a remarkable increase in their relative abundance. The abundance of dechlorinating bacteria (Dehalococcoides mccartyi, Dehalobacter sp. and Desulfitobacterium spp.) remained low throughout this process. The activity of iron- and sulphate-reducers was further stimulated through application of magnetite plus starch and microiron plus starch, resulting in an increase in ferrous iron concentration (from <LOQ to 337 mg/l), a decrease in sulphate concentration by 74–95% and production of hydrogen sulphide (from <LOQ to 25.9 mg/l). At the same time, a gradual revival of dechlorinators and an increase in ethene concentration was also observed. Tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene concentrations decreased by 98.5–99.98% and 75.4–98.5%, respectively. A decline in chlorine number indicated that biological dechlorination contributed to CVOC removal. This study brings new insights into biogeochemical processes that, when properly engineered, could provide a viable solution for secondary treatment.
Chlorinated solvents, Biogeochemical transformation, Indigenous microorganisms, Molecular tools, Solid phase analysis, Geochemical modelling