Kinetics of model high molecular weight organic compounds biodegradation in soil aquifer treatment

Peter Fox, Roshan Makam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Soil Aquifer Treatment (SAT) is a process where treated wastewater is purified during transport through unsaturated and saturated zones. Easily biodegradable compounds are rapidly removed in the unsaturated zone and the residual organic carbon is comprised of primarily high molecular weight compounds. This research focuses on flow in the saturated zone where flow conditions are predictable and high molecular weight compounds are degraded. Flow through the saturated zone was investigated with 4 reactors packed with 2 different particle sizes and operated at 4 different flow rates. The objective was to evaluate the kinetics of transformation for high molecular weight organics during SAT. Dextran was used as a model compound to eliminate the complexity associated with studying a mixture of high molecular weight organics. The hydrolysis products of dextran are easily degradable sugars. Batch experiments with media taken from the reactors were used to determine the distribution of microbial activity in the reactors. Zero-order kinetics were observed for the removal of dextran in batch experiments which is consistent with hydrolysis of high molecular weight organics where extracellular enzymes limit the substrate utilization rate. Biomass and microbial activity measurements demonstrated that the biomass was independent of position in the reactors. A Monod based substrate/biomass growth kinetic model predicted the performance of dextran removal in the reactors. The rate limiting step appears to be hydrolysis and the overall rate was not affected by surface area even though greater biomass accumulation occurred as the surface area decreased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4419-4427
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
Issue number15
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011


  • Dextran
  • High molecular weight organics
  • Hydrolysis
  • Kinetics
  • Saturated
  • Soil aquifer treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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