Influence of a nonaqueous phase liquid (NAPL) on biodegradation of phenanthrene

T. R. Sandrin, W. B. Kight, W. J. Maier, R. M. Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


A series of batch reactor experiments was carried out to examine the effect of a nonaqueous phase liquid (NAPL) on the biodegradation of a hydrophobic solute. A mathematical program model that describes physical processes of solute solubilization and partitioning between the NAPL and aqueous phases as well as microbial degradation and oxygen utilization was used to analyze the test data. The model calculates the cumulative changes in concentration of substrate, cell mass, carbon dioxide, and dissolved oxygen as a function of time. The equations incorporate the effects of solute solubilization, partitioning, biodegradation, as well as oxygen availability. Hexadecane was used as the model NAPL and was not biodegraded in the timeframe of the experiments performed. The model solute was the polyaromatic hydrocarbon, phenanthrene. In agreement with several previous studies, experimental measurements showed that hexadecane increased rates of mineralization of 15 mg phenanthrene when present at low mass but decreased rates at high mass. Model results suggest that partitioning of the phenanthrene into the hexadecane phase limits bioavailability at high NAPL mass. Further the model suggests that mineralization rates were higher with the low NAPL mass because aqueous phenanthrene concentrations were higher in those treatments from ca. 20 to 40 h than in other treatments. Finally, experiments showed that the presence of hexadecane, at all masses tested, resulted in a lower cell yield, effectively increasing the amount of CO2 produced during the experiment. Model results suggest that this is due to changes in phenanthrene metabolism that are induced by the presence of the hexadecane phase. Model studies aimed at increasing rates of biodegradation by modifying operating conditions are described along with practical approaches to implementing these modifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-435
Number of pages13
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodegradation
  • Hexadecane
  • Modeling
  • NAPL
  • Phenanthrene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution


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