OCT 11, 2018 4:34 PM PDT

This bacterium can fight dangerous groundwater contaminants

A new study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters highlights the effectiveness of a bacterium called Azoarcus sp. DD4 (DD4) at degrading specific toxic contaminants that threaten United States groundwater sites. This bacterium has been found to be effective in degrading 1,4-dioxane and 1,1-Dichloroethylene (1,1-DCE), industrial solvents that are the by-products of many cosmetics and home cleaning products. The EPA has classified the solvents as “likely carcinogenic”.

The remediation involved in the cleanup of groundwater sites with these toxic chemicals poses a huge challenge – especially because the pairing of both 1,4-Dioxane and 1,1-DCE makes them resistant to previously discovered remediation strategies, such as using naturally-occurring microbes to degrade the chemicals. The special feature of Azoarcus sp. DD4 (DD4) is its ability to degrade both of the solvents when they are in each other’s presence. The study comes from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).

"Nationwide, researchers have found that more than 80% of the groundwater sites contaminated with 1,4-dioxane also contain 1,1-DCE," said Mengyan Li, assistant professor of chemistry and environmental science at NJIT. "This pair of chemicals are toxic and costly to remove from the environment because the pair have very different properties that typically require separate treatment solutions. Biodegradation by DD4 is the first biological method we have found for treating both compounds concurrently, and it is also environmentally-friendly and cost-efficient."

So where did this bacterium come from? The team of scientists discovered DD4 in samples of activated sludge from a municipal wastewater treatment facility. By isolating DD4 and integrating it into field samples, Li and his team saw just how effective the bacterium was at degradation.

"Overall, we were impressed by the performance of DD4," said Li. "We did not add nutrients like ammonia for the microbe to feed on, or other facilitators that might enhance the bacterium's activity. This demonstrated to us the potential of this bacterium for future use in the field."

Photo: Water Research Laboratory

In addition to DD4’s degrading capabilities, it also has huge potential because of the way it disperses in water. Instead of aggregating, DD4 takes up the space it is released into, which bodes well for bioremediation scenarios. Furthermore, it grows quickly and can live for a long time with little food.

While the researchers are still undergoing feasibility tests for DD4, Li is hopeful about the future for this bacterium. He says his team could likely even start field demonstrations at contaminated groundwater sites as early as next year.

Sources: Science Daily, Environmental Science & Technology Letters

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 03, 2020
Earth & The Environment
What the heck are biocrusts and why are they so important?
AUG 03, 2020
What the heck are biocrusts and why are they so important?
Have you ever heard of biocrusts? No, it’s not a new kind of pizza crust. Biocrusts refer to a group of tiny deser ...
SEP 12, 2020
Earth & The Environment
90% of protected wild areas are fragmented
SEP 12, 2020
90% of protected wild areas are fragmented
Are protected areas even helpful is they’re so disjointed that wildlife can’t move between them? That’ ...
OCT 12, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Improving activated powdered carbon to prevent algal blooms in drinking water treatment
OCT 12, 2020
Improving activated powdered carbon to prevent algal blooms in drinking water treatment
In a study published in the journal Water Research, researchers from The Korea Institute of Science and Technology ...
OCT 23, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
OCT 23, 2020
The Ever-Evolving Battle to Fight Corrosion in Nuclear Reactors
Since its birth in the early 20th century, atomic research has brought mostly positive impacts to our lives. This week i ...
OCT 26, 2020
Microbiology
A Network of Fungi Helps Trees Grow
OCT 26, 2020
A Network of Fungi Helps Trees Grow
Trees rely on a network of fungal friends for good health. Communities of trees can share nutrients and other essentail ...
NOV 18, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
NOV 18, 2020
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
From pandemic precautions to televised talent shows, masks are having a moment. Even this bizarre bat species has a buil ...
Loading Comments...