Engineering Micropollutant Biodegradation in Groundwater

  • 1 May, 2022
  • Wageningen University, Environmental Technology
  • dr. N.B. Sutton

Clean groundwater is an essential source of drinking water. However, its quality is threatened by contamination with organic micropollutants (OMPs) arising from our use of pharmaceuticals, household chemicals, and pesticides. We know that groundwater contains microorganisms that can biodegrade OMPs. However, groundwater is anaerobic and deplete of organic carbon substrates, which limits microbial activity. To secure drinking water resources, we need to understand the fate of OMPs in groundwater and develop technological solutions to treat OMPs by harnessing natural groundwater microbial activity.

This project aims at elucidating the fundamental factors that control groundwater microbial activity and uses this knowledge to engineer OMP biodegradation by dosing dissolved organic carbon (DOC) as a substrate for microbial activity. First, we will investigate microbial metabolism of dosed DOC by natural groundwater microorganisms to understand how DOC supports microbial activity. Then, we will investigate substrate competition between DOC and OMPs, both in laboratory experiments and using kinetic modelling. Thereafter, we will explore how variations in groundwater composition and flow rate affect OMP biodegradation in order to validate a reactive-transport model of drinking water aquifers. Finally, the results on OMP-DOC competition and niche growth conditions will be integrated to validate an OMP bioremediation technology based on dosing DOC. The findings will provide the fundamental scientific framework for OMP bioremediation technology for groundwater that can be applied to other points in the water cycle.


Seeram Apoorva

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