Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2013NJ344B

Dehalogenation of halogenated aromatic compounds by indigenous microorganisms in sediments of the Hackensack River, 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: Seo Sohn, Max Haggblom

Abstract: The New York-New Jersey Harbor estuary and its tributaries in NY and NJ have extensive chemical contamination from both historic and ongoing sources. For example, the Hackensack River has been polluted since construction of the Oradell reservoir. Garbage dumping to the lower river by industries and municipalities for more than 200 years worsened this pollution. The river is polluted by organohalides such as PCBs and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins. Organohalides are of concern because they are often highly toxic and persistent. Thus, the water quality of the river needs to be controlled and improved. Microbially mediated dehalogenation can be an appropriate way to reduce the toxicity of halogenated aromatic compounds. It can also make the compounds more amenable to subsequent degradation by aerobic bacteria. In aqueous sediments depleted in oxygen, reductive dehalogenation can be an effective way to remediate contaminated environment. In this study, the potential for indigenous microorganisms to dehalogenate organohalide pollutants will be assessed using the Hackensack River as a model system. Sediment samples collected from the Hackensack River will be used to establish microcosms spiked with a suite of halogenated compounds to determine possible dehalogenation patterns. Activity of microcosms will be monitored by observation of decreased substrates and formation of intermediates. To characterize the active microbial community, 16S rRNA and reductive dehalogenase (rdh) genes will be targeted by PCR to monitor microbial diversity and rdh gene preference of each microcosm. Isotope fractionation experiments targeted to a carbon atom will show a potential of the Hackensack River sediments to dehalogenation.