Biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the natural waters of the Yellow River: Effects of high sediment content on biodegradation
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The contamination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) has become one of the major problems in the Yellow River of China. As the Yellow River is the most turbid large river in the world, it remains unknown to which extent the high suspended sediment content in the river may affect the fate and effect of PAHs. Here we report the effect of sediment on biodegradation of chrysene, benzo(a)pyrene and benzo(g,h,i)perylene with phenanthrene as a co-metabolism substrate in natural waters from the Yellow River. Biodegradation kinetics of the PAHs in the river water with various levels of sediment contents were studied in the laboratory by fitting with a biodegradation kinetics model for organic compounds not supporting growth. The results indicated that the biodegradation rates of PAHs increased with the sediment content in the water. When the sediment contents were 0, 4 and 10 g/l, the biodegradation rate constants of chrysene with the initial concentration of 3.80 microg/l were 0.053, 0.084 and 0.111 d(-1), respectively. Further studies suggested the enhanced biodegradation rate in the presence of sediment was caused by the following mechanisms: (1) the population of PAH-degrading bacteria in the water system was found to increase with the sediment content; the bacteria population on sediment phase was far greater than that on water phase during the cultivation process; (2) the sorption of PAHs on the sediment phase was well described by the dual adsorption-partition model. Although the sorption capacity of PAH per unit weight of sediment decreased with the increase of the sediment content, the amount of sorbed PAH increased with the sediment content; and, (3) the desorption of PAHs from the solid phase led to a higher concentration near the water-sediment interface. Since the bacteria were also attached to the interface, this resulted in an increased contact chance between the bacteria and PAHs.
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