March 31, 2022

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Geosyntec Staff Coauthored a Journal Article on Natural Aerobic Biodegradation of Chlorinated Ethenes in Environmental Science and Pollution Research

Heather Rectanus, Ph.D., P.E. (Maryland), Dimin Fan, Ph.D. (Maryland), and Neal Durant, Ph.D., (Washington, D.C.) coauthored a paper titled "Natural Biodegradation of Vinyl Chloride and cis-Dichloroethene in Aerobic and Suboxic Conditions" that was published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research on March 24, 2022.

Patrick Richards of the University of Iowa was the lead author, and other coauthors included Jessica Ewald, Wellun Zhao, and Timothy Mattes of the University of Iowa, and Michael Pound of Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, Southwest.

Heather Rectanus is a Principal Engineer based in Maryland with more than 14 years of experience focused on environmental research, development, and implementation projects. Heather specializes in bioremediation and monitored natural attenuation (MNA) remedial strategies for Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) sites and underground storage tank hazardous waste sites.

Dimin Fan is an Environmental Scientist based in Maryland with more than 12 years of experience in the research, development, evaluation, and application of innovative soil and groundwater remediation solutions. His technical expertise includes in situ chemical reduction (ISCR), in situ activated carbon-based technologies, and other forms of combined remedial technologies.

Neal Durant is a Senior Principal Consultant based in Washington, D.C. with more than 28 years of experience investigating, remediating, and managing complex contaminated sites. Neal serves as a consultant and advisor to multinational corporations and government agencies on matters involving quantification, management, and remediation of environmental liabilities.

Environmental Science and Pollution Research is the official publication of the European Chemical Society (EuChemS) Division of Chemistry and the Environment (DCE) and serves the international community in all areas of environmental science and related subjects, with an emphasis on chemical compounds. It reports from a broad interdisciplinary outlook. In addition to the strictly scientific contributions as research articles and reviews, the journal addresses research and technology, legislation and regulation, and hardware and software. It also reports on education, literature, institutions, organizations, and conferences.

The EuChemS DCE works to support cooperation about issues involving chemistry and the environment, connecting national European chemical societies and their members and supporting the sound application of chemistry for assessing and solving environmental issues.


Chlorinated ethene (CE) groundwater contamination is commonly treated through anaerobic biodegradation (i.e., reductive dechlorination) either as part of an engineered system or through natural attenuation. Aerobic biodegradation has also been recognized as a potentially significant pathway for the removal of the lower CEs cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cDCE) and vinyl chloride (VC). However, the role of aerobic biodegradation under low oxygen conditions typical of contaminated groundwater is unclear. Bacteria capable of aerobic VC biodegradation appear to be common in the environment, while aerobic biodegradation of cDCE is less common and little is known regarding the organisms responsible. In this study, we investigate the role of aerobic cDCE and VC biodegradation in a mixed contaminant plume (including CEs, BTEX, and ketones) at Naval Air Station North Island, Installation Restoration Site 9. Sediment and groundwater collected from the plume source area, mid-plume, and shoreline were used to prepare microcosms under fully aerobic (8 mg/L dissolved oxygen (DO)) and suboxic (< 1 mg/L DO) conditions. In the shoreline microcosms, VC and cDCE were rapidly degraded under suboxic conditions (100% and 77% removal in < 62 days). In the suboxic VC microcosms, biodegradation was associated with a > 5 order of magnitude increase in the abundance of functional gene etnE, part of the aerobic VC utilization pathway. VC and cDCE were degraded more slowly under fully aerobic conditions (74% and 30% removal) in 110 days. High-throughput 16S rRNA and etnE sequencing suggest the presence of novel VC- and cDCE-degrading bacteria. These results suggest that natural aerobic biodegradation of cDCE and VC is occurring at the site and provide new evidence that low (< 1 mg/L) DO levels play a significant role in natural attenuation of cDCE and VC.

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