Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2013NJ339B

Understanding the fate of MTBE in anaerobic aquatic environments of New Jersey

Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2013 Start Date: 2013-03-01 End Date: 2014-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $10,001

Principal Investigators: Tong Liu, Max Haggblom

Abstract: Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is the dominant fuel oxygenate used until recently worldwide. The widespread use of MTBE has caused major contamination of groundwater, resulting in taste and odor problems. In New Jersey, MTBE was detected in over 20% of public community and non-transient non-community water supplies between 2002 and 2008. It is highly water soluble and resistant to microbial degradation. The overall goal in this work is to develop tools for monitoring natural attenuation and enhancing biodegradation of MTBE in groundwater environments of New Jersey. Our previous work has demonstrated that anaerobic degradation of MTBE can occur under methanogenic and sulfidogenic conditions, and it may play an important role in natural attenuation. This research will enrich anaerobic MTBE-degrading cultures in order to identify the bacteria responsible for MTBE degradation during the anaerobic biodegradation process in contaminated soils and sediments. I will develop a set of tools for the analysis which includes (1) MTBE-degrading bacterial community structure will be analyzed using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP)-Stable isotope probing (SIP) method (2) Single bacterial cells actively incorporating MTBE in microbial communities will be probed by utilizing single cell Raman microspectroscopy (SCRS)-SIP.