Oxygen-enhanced Biodegradation of Phenoxy Acids in Ground Water at Contaminated Sites

Ground Water. Mar-Apr 2006;44(2):256-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2005.00104.x.


The effects of adding oxygen to anaerobic aquifer materials on biodegradation of phenoxy acid herbicides were studied by laboratory experiments with aquifer material from two contaminated sites (a former agricultural machinery service and an old landfill). At both sites, the primary pollutants were phenoxy acids and related chlorophenols. It was found that addition of oxygen enhanced degradation of the six original phenoxy acids and six original chlorophenols. Inverse modeling on 14C 4-chloro-2-methylphenoxypropanoic acid (MCPP) degradation curves revealed that increasing the oxygen concentrations from <0.3 mg/L up to 7 to 8 mg/L shortened the lag phases (from approximately 150 d to 5 to 25 d) and increased first-order degradation rate constants by 1 order of magnitude (from approximately 5 x 10(-2) d(-1) to up to 30 x 10(-2) d(-1)). Additionally, the degree of MCPP mineralization was increased (30% to 50% mineralized at low oxygen concentrations and 50% to 70% mineralized at high oxygen concentrations, based on 14CO2 recovery). These positive effects on degradation were observed even at relatively low oxygen concentrations (2 mg/L). Furthermore, effects related to the addition of oxygen on the general geochemistry were studied. An oxygen consumption of 2.2 to 2.6 mg O2/g dw was observed due to oxidation of solid organic matter and, to some extent (0.5% to 11% of the total oxygen consumption), water-soluble compounds such as Fe2+, dissolved Mn, nonvolatile organic carbon, and NH4+. Overall, the results suggest that stimulated biodegradation by addition of oxygen might be a feasible remediation technology at herbicide-contaminated sites, although oxygen consumption by the sediment could limit the applicability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Biodegradation, Environmental / drug effects
  • Carboxylic Acids / metabolism*
  • Geologic Sediments
  • Hazardous Waste
  • Herbicides / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / pharmacology*
  • Phenols / metabolism*
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*
  • Water Supply


  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Hazardous Waste
  • Herbicides
  • Phenols
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Oxygen