Establishment of bacterial herbicide degraders in a rapid sand filter for bioremediation of phenoxypropionate-polluted groundwater

Louise Feld, Tue Kjærgaard Nielsen, Lars Hestbjerg Hansen, Jens Aamand, Christian Nyrop Albers

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41 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we investigated the establishment of natural bacterial degraders in a sand filter treating groundwater contaminated with the phenoxypropionate herbicides (RS)-2-(4-chloro-2-methylphenoxy)propanoic acid (MCPP) and (RS)-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy) propanoic acid (DCPP) and the associated impurity/catabolite 4-chlorophenoxypropanoic acid (4-CPP). A pilot facility was set up in a contaminated landfill site. Anaerobic groundwater was pumped up and passed through an aeration basin and subsequently through a rapid sand filter, which is characterized by a short residence time of the water in the filter. For 3 months, the degradation of DCPP, MCPP, and 4-CPP in the sand filter increased to 15 to 30% of the inlet concentration. A significant selection for natural bacterial herbicide degraders also occurred in the sand filter. Using a most-probable-number (MPN) method, we found a steady increase in the number of culturable phenoxypropionate degraders, reaching approximately 5 × 10 5 degraders per g sand by the end of the study. Using a quantitative PCR targeting the two phenoxypropionate degradation genes, rdpA and sdpA, encoding stereospecific dioxygenases, a parallel increase was observed, but with the gene copy numbers being about 2 to 3 log units higher than the MPN. In general, the sdpA gene was more abundant than the rdpA gene, and the establishment of a significant population of bacteria harboring sdpA occurred faster than the establishment of an rdpA gene-carrying population. The identities of the specific herbicide degraders in the sand filter were assessed by Illumina MiSeq sequencing of 16S rRNA genes from sand filter samples and from selected MPN plate wells. We propose a list of potential degrader bacteria involved in herbicide degradation, including representatives belonging to the Comamonadaceae and Sphingomonadales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)878-887
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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