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Unraveling key abiotic and biotic interactions for sustainable anaerobic biotransformation of chlorinated solvents in groundwater

Activity Code: FP7-PEOPLE-IOF-2008
Coordinator: Dr Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health


Chlorinated solvents are potential carcinogens frequently found in groundwater and are classified as priority pollutants. Anaerobic biotransformation of these compounds to non-toxic ethene via reductive dechlorationation is carried out by microorganisms living in consortia. Bioaugmentation the addition of active microbial cultures to a contaminated site is a low-cost and potentially highly effective remediation alternative, particularly for chlorinated solvents, where dechlorination is carried out by very specialized microbes not present at every site. However, there remain serious scientific gaps to more widespread adoption of bioremediation and bioaugmentation.
Diagnostics and prognostic monitoring approaches are critically needed to improve our ability to sustain high rates of microbial activity and make bioremediation more reliable and more predictable. This project aims at providing new insights into the biogeochemical interactions affecting chlorinated solvent bioremediation in subsurface anaerobic environments. A stable microbial consortium (KB-1) developed in the Edwards lab (Univ. of Toronto) and used commercially for bioaugmentation at field sites will be used as a model for lab-based and field experiments.

The project will address three major issues:

  • unravel contaminant metabolism and important interspecies interactions in mixed microbial communities with the help of metagenome sequences and metabolomic profiling
  • identify biomarkers through molecular screens and isotopic fractionation signatures to monitor biodegradative mechanisms and the key players involved in these processes
  • understand critical abiotic-biotic interactions and physiological influences on microbial activity in the subsurface at contaminated sites.

Knowledge gained from this project will help establishing a sound basis for future research to find new consortia capable of biodegrading other priority pollutants and new chemicals entering our soils and waters.

Project Details:

Start Date: 01.03.2010
End Date: 28.02.2013
EU Contribution: 226,833 Euro
Total Costs: 226,833 Euro
Funding Scheme: International Outgoing Fellowships (IOF)
Administrative Contact Person: Dr Jürgen Ertel, ertel@helmholtz-muenchen.de
Scientific Coordinator: Dr Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, schmitt-kopplin@helmholtz-muenchen.de


  •  Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health, Germany
  • The Governing Council  of the University of Toronto, Canada