A test cell of 3-m by 6-m located at the mid-point of a gasoline spill site was selected to test the hypothesis that the rate of hydrocarbon biodegradation is influenced by the spatial distribution of the electron acceptors, aqueous geochemistry, and microbial population. Multilevel samplers (MLSs) were installed at four corners of the test cell for groundwater sampling. Sampling ports were placed at 0.3-m intervals from 1.5 to 4.8 m below land surface (bls). A 0.91-m by 12.7-cm sediment core (from 3.3 to 4.2 m bls) in the center of the MLSs was collected. The core was cut into 7 sections, and each was used for sediment extractions, microbial enumeration, grain size distribution, and microcosm studies. Groundwater analytical results indicate that iron reduction was the dominant biodegradation process within this test cell. Iron-reducing process caused the preferential removal of certain compounds. Microbial enumeration results show that the distribution of microbial population varied with depth and sediment materials. Lower microbial population was observed in those sections with higher portion of clayey materials. The less permeable materials would limit the bacterial transport, decrease the bioavailability of Fe(III) to iron-reducing bacteria, and thus cause the low biodegradation activity. Results suggest that using blended sediments for biodegradation rate measurements may provide misleading results.

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