The possibility of obtaining microbial cultures for the degradation of halogenated aliphatic hydrocarbons is mainly determined by the diversity and activity of catabolic enzymes that exist in nature. If a suitable organism is available, applications for the treatment of different waste streams can be developed. The relation between the kinetic parameters of the key enzymes and the properties of the organisms relevant for such applications is discussed, both for growth supporting and cometabolic degradation. When growth on a chlorinated aliphatic compound is possible, development of a biological remediation process is likely to be relatively easy. This is illustrated with the degradation of 1,2-dichloroethane, a synthetic compound that can be mineralized by specific cultures. Closely related compounds may be recalcitrant, which can be understood from an examination of the degradative pathways. The development of biological treatment processes based on cometabolic degradation is more demanding because selection of the proper organisms and maintaining them in the process are not straightforward. The range of compounds that can be degraded cometabolically is significantly larger. The potential of obtaining improved degradation by genetic adaptation and the use of biofilms is discussed.

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