Stable carbon isotope fractionation during aerobic biodegradation of chlorinated ethenes. Academic Article uri icon


  • Stable isotope analysis is recognized as a powerful tool for monitoring, assessing, and validating in-situ bioremediation processes. In this study, kinetic carbon isotope fractionation factors (epsilon) associated with the aerobic biodegradation of vinyl chloride (VC), cis-1,2-dichloroethylene (cDCE), and trichloroethylene (TCE) were examined. Of the three solvents, the largest fractionation effects were observed for biodegradation of VC. Both metabolic and cometabolic VC degradation were studied using Mycobacterium aurum L1 (grown on VC), Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b (grown on methane), Mycobacterium vaccae JOB5 (grown on propane), and two VC enrichment cultures seeded from contaminated soils of Alameda Point and Travis Air Force Base, CA. M. aurum L1 caused the greatest fractionation (epsilon = -5.7) while for the cometabolic cultures, epsilon values ranged from -3.2 to -4.8. VC fractionation patterns for the enrichment cultures were within the range of those observed for the metabolic and cometabolic cultures (epsilon = -4.5 to -5.5). The fractionation for cometabolic degradation of TCE by Me. trichosporium OB3b was low (epsilon = -1.1), while no quantifiable carbon isotopic fractionation was observed during the cometabolic degradation of cDCE. For all three of the tested chlorinated ethenes, isotopic fractionation measured during aerobic degradation was significantly smaller than that reported for anaerobic reductive dechlorination. This study suggests that analysis of compound-specific isotopic fractionation could assist in determining whether aerobic or anaerobic degradation of VC and cDCE predominates in field applications of in-situ bioremediation. In contrast, isotopic fractionation effects associated with metabolic and cometabolic reactions are not sufficiently dissimilar to distinguish these processes in the field.

published proceedings

  • Environ Sci Technol

author list (cited authors)

  • Chu, K., Mahendra, S., Song, D. L., Conrad, M. E., & Alvarez-Cohen, L.

citation count

  • 64

complete list of authors

  • Chu, Kung-Hui||Mahendra, Shaily||Song, Donald L||Conrad, Mark E||Alvarez-Cohen, Lisa

publication date

  • June 2004