Biodegradation during contaminant transport in porous media: V. The influence of growth and cell elution on microbial distribution

Irfan Yolcubal, Shelley A. Pierce, Raina M. Maier, Mark L. Brusseau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study investigated the interaction between microbial growth and cell elution, and their influence on resultant microbial distribution between the aqueous and solid phases during solute transport in a sandy, low-organic-carbon-content porous medium. Miscible displacement experiments were conducted with salicylate as the model compound, and with different initial conditions (e.g., substrate concentrations and cell densities) to attain various degrees of microbial growth. For each experiment, salicylate and dissolved oxygen concentrations as well as cell densities were monitored in the column effluent. Cell densities were also measured in the porous medium at the beginning and end of each experiment. Total microbial growth was determined in two ways, one based on a cell mass balance for the system and the other based on total amount of salicylate degraded. For conditions yielding a considerable amount of microbial growth, the majority of the biomass was associated with the aqueous phase (68-90%). Conversely, under minimal-growth conditions, most cells (approximately 60-70%) were attached to particle surfaces. Significant cell elution was observed for most conditions, the rate of which increased in the presence of the substrate. The results suggest that the increase in aqueous-phase cells observed for the experiments exhibiting the greatest growth is associated with the production of new cells, and that under appropriate conditions aqueous-phase biomass can contribute significantly to contaminant biodegradation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1824-1830
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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