The objective of this research was to determine if either methanogenic or sulfidogenic reductive dechlorination could survive an alternating anaerobic/aerobic sequence to biologically transform halogenated aliphatic hydrocarbons (HACs), specifically tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), cis-1,2 dichloroethylene (cDCE), trans-1,2 dichloroethylene (tDCE), 1,1 dichloroethylene (1,1DCE) and vinyl chloride (VC). This ability was considered to be a necessary prerequisite for complete anaerobic/aerobic mineralization of halogenated aliphatic hydrocarbons by a single microbial consortia. Chlorinated solvents, which are among the most common groundwater contaminants, have been partially dechlorinated using single-stage anaerobic environmental treatment strategies. Various types of bacteria typically reductively dechlorinate PCE and TCE to cDCE and VC in an anaerobic environment, including methanogens, sulfidogens, and homoacetogens. The problem lies in the fact that reductive dechlorination typically leads to an accumulation of daughter compounds (cDCE, VC) which are more toxic than their parent compounds (PCE, TCE). Furthermore, PCE and (to a lesser extent) TCE, are resistant to dechlorination in aerobic environments. In contrast, VC and cDCE are readily oxidized co-metabolically in an aerobic environment by methanotrophic bacteria, and others using oxygenases (e.g. toluene oxidizers). Results from this research showed that both methanogenic and sulfidogenic reductive dechlorination could resume after transient exposures to both oxygen and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). In fact, for cycles as frequent as 10 days between aerobic treatment cycles, reductive dechlorination was observed to resume at rates at least as rapid as microcosms not exposed to aerobic treatments.

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