Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017NJ391B

Designer Bacteria for Restoring the Passaic River

Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $10,000

Principal Investigators: Rachel Dean, Donna E. Fennell

Abstract: The Passaic River contains dangerously high levels of dioxins. Dioxins are a fat soluble suite of compounds including the most toxic congener 2,3,7,8- tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Dioxins sorb to sediments, making contaminated aquatic systems unfit for recreation and contaminated water unsafe for drinking. Dioxins become concentrated in the tissues of fish, and can cause a wide range of health and reproductive problems if ingested. The Passaic River, NJ is one of the most seriously dioxin-contaminated rivers in the world. The river is a Superfund site and will soon undergo targeted dredging and capping as a remediation solution. Although dredging the most highly contaminated Passaic River sediments may remove some of the dioxin contamination, this invasive procedure will not remove all of the contaminated sediments. To more thoroughly reduce the effects of dioxins at the Passaic River and prevent their spread to neighboring bodies of water, I propose to determine whether TCDD can be dechlorinated in sediments of the lower Passaic River, to identify active TCDD-dechlorinating bacteria and their dehalogenase enzymes, and to produce a novel dehalogenase protein from these bacteria in an external microbial host. Stable isotope probing (SIP) coupled to metagenomic analysis will be performed to identify organohalide respiring bacteria that are active during dioxin dechlorination and to characterize associated dehalogenating enzymes. The dehalogenase most strongly associated with de-chlorination of TCDD will be produced in the easy-to-manipulate bacteria Shimwellia blattae for study and potential application at the Passaic River.