New approaches and methodologies for bioremediation of water contaminated by chlorinated aliphatic solvents

Funds: CNR – Lombardia Region
Period: July 25th 2013 – July 24th 2015

Chlorinated aliphatic solvents (CAHs) are a large family of compounds that are used in several  industrial applications (solvents, degreasing agents). Due to improper handling and disposal practices, CAHs are among the most common organic contaminants of soil and groundwater. Contamination of groundwater by CAHs is extremely common and relevant in the Lombardy Region, due to the impact that the various industries have had, and in some cases continue to have, on the territory. Most cahs compounds are highly toxic and are suspected carcinogens, for this reason, their presence in the environment raises a lot of concern.
In principle, bioremediation could allow to treat efficiently and cost-effectively, the numerous aquifers contaminated with chlorinated solvents. On the other hand, the lack of suitable tools for designing, monitoring and control bioremediation have largely limited their spreading and have fostered the application of alternative technologies, such as the Pump & Treat, although these are much more expensive, do not allow the effective destruction of contaminants but only their phase transfer, and typically do not preserve the ground water, for possible uses as the treated water becomes a waste to discharge.
In the light of these considerations, the present research project aims to develop and field-testing new approaches and methodologies for a more robust, reliable and sustainable implementation of bioremediation techniques for the cleanup of groundwater contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons.
The project, which is developed through a collaboration between the Water Research Institute (UOS Brugherio, MB) and the National Institute of Optics (UOS SENSOR of Brescia, BS), is structured into four research themes that are closely linked one to each other:
- Topic 1: Development and field-demonstration of a new electrochemically assisted bioremediation process
- Topic 2: Development and field-demonstration of biomolecular methods for the rapid assessment of the potential for bioremediation of chlorinated hydrocarbons
- Topic 3: Development and field-application of eco-toxicological tests for the “integral” assessment of the effectiveness of bioremediation processes
- Topic 4: Development of sensors for measuring chlorinated hydrocarbons in the field

Some fundamental aspects of the above described processes and technologies are already being investigated by the participating scientists in the frame of international project funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme.
All above mentioned Tasks (Topics 1-4) will be carried out at CNR laboratories located in Regione Lombardia and at a real contaminated, located in Rho (MI). The “Field-testing” of the newly proposed technological approaches and methodologies will be a unique opportunity of crucial importance in order to verify their robustness and reliability under highly representative environmental conditions.