Soil microbial parameters and luminescent bacteria assays as indicators for in situ bioremediation of TNT-contaminated soils

Tobias Frische, Heinrich Höper
Chemosphere 2003, 50 (3): 415-27
In situ bioremediation is increasingly being discussed as a useful strategy for cleaning up contaminated soils. Compared to established ex situ procedures, meaningful and reliable approaches for monitoring the remediation processes and their efficiency are of special importance. The subject of this study was the significance of two bioassays for monitoring purposes. The work was performed within the scope of a research project on the in situ bioremediation of topsoil contaminated with 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT). To evaluate changes within different experimental fields during a 17-month remediation period, the results of soil microbial assays and luminescent bacteria assays were compared with chemical monitoring data. The luminescent bacteria assays showed a significant reduction of the water-soluble soil toxicants in the treated fields. This bioassay proved to be a sensitive screening indicator of toxicity and may effectively aid the ecotoxicological interpretation of chemical monitoring data. Microbial biomass (C(mic)), the metabolic quotient (qCO2), and the ratio of microbial to organic carbon (C(mic)/C(org)) showed a highly significant correlation with total concentrations of TNT in the soil. But, in contrast to luminescent bacteria assays, this approach did not reveal any recovery of the soil at the end of the remediation period. There is clear evidence for persistent adverse effects of chronic TNT contamination on the site-specific microbial community and the local carbon cycle in the soil. The study clearly exhibits the differences between, as well as the complementary value of both bioassay approaches for monitoring short-term and long-term effects of soil contamination and the efficiency of remediation.

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