Heterotropic bacteria can degrade organic substrates utilizing different terminal electron acceptors. The sequence of electron acceptor utilization depends on the energy yield of the individual reaction pathway, which decreases as the redox potential decreases. Due to these differences in energy yield, and an inhibiting activity of oxygen on some enzymatic processes, the simultaneous utilization of oxygen and nitrate as terminal electron acceptors may not occur for many degradation processes, unless the oxygen concentration falls below a given threshold level (about 0.2 mg/l). Two sand column experiments were conducted, with toluene as the carbon source, and showed an apparent simultaneous utilization of oxygen and nitrate as electron acceptors in regions where the oxygen concentration was significantly higher (≥ 1.1 mg/l) than the above mentioned threshold concentration. Results from aerobic and anaerobic plate-count analyses showed growth of both aerobes and denitrifiers in the zone of the column where simultaneous utilization of oxygen and nitrate was observed. From these observations, it was postulated that the porous media contained oxygen-free microlocations where the denitrifiers were able to degrade the toluene. To simulate the observed dynamics, a dual biofilm model was implemented. This model formulation assumes that the biofilm is composed of two distinct layers, where the outer layer is colonized by aerobic bacteria and the inner layer by denitrifying bacteria. The thickness of the aerobic layer is such that oxygen is depleted at the boundary of these two layers, resulting in oxygen-free microlocations that allows denitrification to proceed, even though oxygen is still present in the bulk fluid phase. The model simulations compared well to the experimental profiles. Model analyses indicated that changes in physical, chemical, and hydrologic parameters could change the length and location of the zone where at the macroscopic level, oxygen and nitrate are utilized simultaneously. Comparisons of the proposed model to macroscopic modeling approaches showed that a dual biofilm model is able to describe the simultaneous utilization of oxygen and nitrate more accurately.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Water Science and Technology
- Aerobic bacteria
- Denitrifying bacteria
- Overlapping utilization