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Bioremediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in water using indigenous microbes of Diep- and Plankenburg Rivers, Western Cape, South Africa
Alegbeleye, Oluwadara Oluwaseun
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This study was conducted to investigate the occurrence of PAH degrading microorganisms in two river systems in the Western Cape, South Africa, and their ability to degrade two PAH compounds (acenaphthene and fluorene). A total of 19 bacterial isolates were obtained from the Diep- and Plankenburg Rivers. These microorganisms were first identified phenotypically on various selective and general media (such as nutrient agar, Eosine Methylene Blue and Mannitol Salts Agar), followed by staining and biochemical testing, followed by molecular identification using 16S rRNA and PCR. The isolates were then tested for acenaphthene and fluorene degradation first at flask scale and then in a Stirred Tank Bioreactor at varying temperatures (25ºC, 30ºC, 35ºC, 37ºC, 38ºC, 40ºC and 45ºC). All experiments were run without the addition of supplements, bulking agents, biosurfactants or any other form of biostimulants. Four of the 19 isolated microorganisms were identified as acenaphthene and fluorene degrading isolates. Three of the four microorganisms identified as PAH degrading isolates were Gram negative isolates. Results showed that Raoultella ornithinolytica, Serratia marcescens, Bacillus megaterium and Aeromonas hydrophila efficiently degraded fluorene (99.90%, 97.90%, 98.40% and 99.50%) and acenaphthene (98.60%, 95.70%, 90.20% and 99.90%) at 37ºC, 37ºC, 30ºC and 35ºC, respectively. The degradation of fluorene was found to be more efficient and rapid compared to that of acenaphthene and degradation at Stirred Tank Bioreactor scale was more efficient for all treatments. Throughout the biodegradation experiments, there was an exponential increase in microbial plate counts ranging from 5 x 104 to 9 x 108 CFU/ml. The increase in plate count was observed to correlate with the efficient degradation temperature profiles and percentages. The PAH degrading microorganisms isolated during this study significantly reduced the concentrations of acenaphthene and fluorene and can be used on a larger, commercial scale to bioremediate PAH contaminated river systems. Other factors that influence the optimal expression of biodegradative potential of microorganisms other than temperature and substrate (nutrient) availability, such as pH, moisture and salinity will be investigated in future studies, as well as the factors contributing to the higher fluorene degradation compared to acenaphthene. Furthermore, the structure and toxicity of the by-products and intermediates produced during microbial metabolism of acenaphthene and fluorene should be investigated in further studies.