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Attenuation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) under anaerobic conditions

Kaya, Devrim
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are toxic and persistent anthropogenic contaminants. Concern on their adverse health effects has led to their regulation in air, water and/or soil in addition to sludge. Hence, removal of PCBs in various matrices, including transformer oils (TO) is a priority. This study aims to investigate PCB-118 and Aroclor 1254 toxicity and dechlorination by varying certain critical experimental components including electron donor (sludge or fatty acids), inocula (unacclimated or acclimated culture) and the doses of PCB and TO under anaerobic conditions. Anaerobic toxicity assays (ATA) reactors, lab-scale anaerobic batch digesters and sediment microcosms were used for this purpose. Increase in PCB-118 and TO doses affected anaerobic digester performance by negatively influencing methanogenesis, while favoring dechlorination only with the increase in PCB-118 dose. Up to 22% PCB-118 removal was attained with unacclimated culture. Studies with acclimated cultures showed Grasse River (GR) sediment to be the most active when compared to Fox River and Baltimore Harbor sediments. In GR sediment microcosms, PCB-118 and Aroclor 1254 removal efficiencies decreased when TO was present (1%), while 10% TO inhibited PCB dechlorination. Waste activated sludge was shown to be an effective electron donor, similar to fatty acids. Aroclor 1254 dechlorination was dechlorinated through removal of flanked meta and para chlorines, however, dechlorination pathways appeared to differ according to the presence/absence of TO. No ortho or unflanked chlorines were removed. Molecular tools (qPCR and DHPLC) were used to confirm the presence of active PCB dechlorinators. Dechlorination of PCBs was shown to be growth-linked.