Rhamnolipid-enhanced mineralization of phenanthrene in organic-metal co-contaminated soils

Pascale Maslin, Raina M. Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Successful remediation of soils co-contaminated with organics and metals may require a combination of technologies. This research addresses the organic component within co-contaminated sites. It is well known that metal contaminants in soil can partially or completely inhibit normal helerotrophic microbial activity and hence prevent in situ biodegradation of organics. Previous work has shown that a rhamnolipid biosurfactant can complex metals such as lead and cadmium. It has also been demonstrated, in pure culture, that rhamnolipid can mitigate metal inhibition during the degradation of naphthalene. The goal of this study was to investigate whether rhamnolipid could reduce the toxicity of a model metal, cadmium, to indigenous soil populations in two different soils, Brazito and Gila, during the mineralization of phenanthrene. Results show that cadmium inhibited phenanthrene mineralization in both soils at bioavailable cadmium concentrations as low as 27 μM. This inhibition was reduced by the addition of rhamnolipid. Since rhamnolipid is degraded by soil populations, a rhamnolipid pulsing strategy was used to maintain a constant level of rhamnolipid in the system. Using this strategy, phenanthrene mineralization levels comparable to the control (0 mM Cd/0 mM rhamnolipid) were achieved in the presence of toxic cadmium concentrations. This research demonstrates that pulsed application of rhamnolipid may allow bioremedialion of organic contaminants in sites that are co-contaminated with organics and metals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-308
Number of pages14
JournalBioremediation Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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