Initial-phase optimization for bioremediation of munition compound-contaminated soils

Appl Environ Microbiol. 1993 Jul;59(7):2171-7. doi: 10.1128/aem.59.7.2171-2177.1993.


We examined the bioremediation of soils contaminated with the munition compounds 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine, and octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetraazocine by a procedure that produced anaerobic conditions in the soils and promoted the biodegradation of nitroaromatic contaminants. This procedure consisted of flooding the soils with 50 mM phosphate buffer, adding starch as a supplemental carbon substrate, and incubating under static conditions. Aerobic heterotrophs, present naturally in the soil or added as an inoculum, quickly removed the oxygen from the static cultures, creating anaerobic conditions. Removal of parent TNT molecules from the soil cultures by the strictly anaerobic microflora occurred within 4 days. The reduced intermediates formed from TNT and hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine were removed from the cultures within 24 days, completing the first stage of remediation. The procedure was effective over a range of incubation temperatures, 20 to 37 degrees C, and was improved when 25 mM ammonium was added to cultures buffered with 50 mM potassium phosphate. Ammonium phosphate buffer (50 mM), however, completely inhibited TNT reduction. The optimal pH for the first stage of remediation was between 6.5 and 7.0. When soils were incubated under aerobic conditions or under anaerobic conditions at alkaline pHs, the TNT biodegradation intermediates polymerized. Polymerization was not observed at neutral to slightly acidic pHs under anaerobic conditions. Completion of the first stage of remediation of munition compound-contaminated soils resulted in aqueous supernatants that contained no munition residues or aminoaromatic compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / metabolism*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Decontamination / methods*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Soil Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Temperature
  • Trinitrotoluene / metabolism*


  • Culture Media
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Trinitrotoluene
  • Ammonia