A pilot-scale membrane bioreactor (MBR) was tested for bioremediation of 1,2-dichloroethane (DCA) in groundwater. Pyrosequencing of 16S rDNA was used to study changes in the microbiology of the MBR over 137 days, including a 67 day initial adaptation phase of increasing DCA concentration. The bacterial community in the MBR was distinct from those in soil and groundwater at the same site, and was dominated by alpha- and beta- proteobacteria, including Rhodobacter, Methylibium, Rhodopseudomonas, Methyloversatilis, Caldilinea, Thiobacillus, Azoarcus, Hyphomicrobium, and Leptothrix. Biodegradation of DCA in the MBR began after 26 days, and was sustained for the remainder of the experiment. A quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay for the dehalogenase gene dhlA was developed to monitor DCA-degrading bacteria in the MBR, and a positive correlation was seen between dhlA gene abundance and the cumulative amount of DCA that had entered the MBR. Genera previously associated with aerobic DCA biodegradation (Xanthobacter, Ancylobacter, Azoarcus) were present in the MBR, and the abundance of Azoarcus correlated well with dhlA gene abundance. This study shows that MBRs can be an effective method for removal of DCA from groundwater, and that the dhlA qPCR is a rapid and sensitive method for detection of DCA-degrading bacteria.