Intrinsic and bioaugmented aerobic trichloroethene degradation at seven sites

Anna Willmann, Anna Lena Trautmann, Ariel Kushmaro, Andreas Tiehm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Trichloroethene (TCE) is one of the most prevalent contaminants in groundwater pollution worldwide. Aerobic-metabolic degradation of TCE has only recently been discovered at one field site. It has significant advantages over aerobic co-metabolism because no auxiliary substrates are required, and the oxygen demand is considerably lower. This study investigated the intrinsic degradation potential as well as the stimulation potential by bioaugmentation in microcosm experiments with groundwater from seven different sites contaminated with chloroethenes. An enrichment culture metabolizing TCE aerobically served as inoculum. The groundwater samples were inoculated with liquid culture in mineral salts medium as well as with immobilized culture on silica sand. Additionally, some samples were inoculated with groundwater from the site where the enrichment culture originated. The microcosms without inoculum proved the occurrence of aerobic TCE-metabolizing bacteria stimulated by the supply of oxygen in 54% of the groundwater samples. TCE degradation started in most cases after adaptation times of up to 92 d. The doubling time of 24 d indicated comparatively slow growth of the aerobic TCE degrading microorganisms. Bioaugmentation triggered or accelerated TCE-degradation in all microcosms with chlorothene concentrations below 100 mg L−1. All inoculation strategies (liquid and immobilized enrichment culture or addition of groundwater from the active field site) were successful. Our study demonstrates that aerobic-metabolic TCE degradation can occur and be stimulated across a broad hydrogeologic spectrum and should be considered as a viable option for groundwater remediation at TCE-contaminated sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13485
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • Aerobic biodegradation
  • Chloroethenes
  • Doubling time
  • Groundwater remediation
  • TCE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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