Following the 1994 San Jacinto River flood and oil spill in southeast Texas, a petroleum-contaminated wetland was reserved for a long-term research program to evaluate bioremediation as a viable spill response tool. The first phase of this program, presented in this paper, evaluated the intrinsic biodegradation of petroleum in the contaminated wetland. Sediment samples from six test plots were collected 11 times over an 11-month period to assess the temporal and spatial petroleum concentrations. Petroleum concentrations were evaluated using gas chromatography-mass spectrometer analyses of specific target compounds normalized to the conservative biological marker, C(30)17alpha,21beta(H)-hopane. The analyses of specific target compounds were able to characterize that significant petroleum biodegradation had occurred at the site over the one-year period. Total resolved saturate and total resolved aromatic hydrocarbon data indicated the petroleum was degraded more than 95%. In addition, first-order biodegradation rate constants were calculated for the hopane-normalized target compounds and supported expected biodegradation patterns. The rapid degradation rates of the petroleum hydrocarbons are attributed to conditions favorable to biodegradation. Elevated nutrient levels from the flood deposition and the unconsolidated nature of the freshly deposited sediment possibly provided a nutrient rich, oxic environment. Additionally, it is suggested that an active and capable microbial community was present due to prior exposure to petroleum. These factors provided an environment conducive for the rapid bioremediation of the petroleum in the contaminated wetland.
- Intrinsic Remediation
- Natural Attenuation