The Effect of Biotic and Abiotic Factors on Degradation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) by Bacteria in the Soil
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of ubiquitous environmental contaminants with two or more aromatic rings and originating from different emission sources. They are extremely toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic to human, animals and plants. Consequently, the need to expand economical and practical remediation technologies for PAH contaminated sites is evident. In this study, the effect of biotic and abiotic factors on degradation of PAH was studied. The degradation was studied on the key model PAH (phenanthrene, anthracene, fluoranthene and pyrene) in J. Arthur Bower’s top soil. The hypothesis for this study was that roadside soil would contain PAH degrading bacteria; pH would influence the microbial degradation of PAH, chemical oxidation of PAH would be as efficient as microbial breakdown of PAH and mobilising agents, would move PAH throughout soil, potentially making the PAH more available for biodegradation. The greatest degradations were found for the lowest molecular weight PAH, phenanthrene and anthracene; whilst lowest degradation was observed for higher molecular weight PAH, fluoranthene and pyrene. Twelve bacteria genera were isolated and identified by biochemical and molecular techniques from the roadside soil with the four PAHs as the sole carbon source. However, potentially new PAH biodegrader bacteria species and a novel were found in this study, which was not reported in the literature. The effect of pH between 5.0 and 8.0 at half pH intervals on biodegradation of the four PAHs and on bacterial populations in the soil over 32 days was monitored. The greatest population of bacteria and greatest biodegradation for the four PAHs was found at pH of 7.5. It is likely that the general increase in population was also linked with greater metabolic activities of bacteria at basic pHs which assists pollutant biodegradation. Although there is high pollutant mobility at low pHs, the biodegradation was limited due to reduced microbial activity. High pHs resulted in greater PAH biodegradation suggesting that pH manipulation by liming may be an effective way of stimulating biodegradation of PAH. The effect of potassium permanganate on oxidation of the four PAHs in the soil was examined. Studies in this thesis, indicated that potassium permanganate had a significant (p<0.05) effect on oxidation of the four PAHs at pH 7.5 over 35 days. However in comparison to biodegradation, chemical oxidation has significantly (p<0.05) less effect. Finally, the effect of Tween 20 only on translocation and biodegradation of the four PAHs at pH 7.5 over 35 days was examined. Studies indicated that Tween 20 had significantly (p<0.05) enhanced translocation of the four PAHs in the sterile soil. Moreover, the greatest biodegradation was found in the soil inoculated with only the roadside soil microorganisms but without Tween 20. This suggested that Tween 20 had a significant (p<0.05) inhibitory effect on the roadside soil microorganisms and therefore less microorganism were grown in the soil containing Tween 20. This indicated that Tween 20 was translocated PAH, but inhibited breakdown. This study indicated microbial biodegradation was the most effective technique for removing of the PAH from contaminated soil, which was cost effective and easier to perform in comparison to the other two techniques. Microbial biodegradation could be improved by adjusting pH through liming if soil was acid.