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Survey of the Anaerobic Biodegradation Potential of Organic Chemicals in Digesting Sludge

By Nigel S. Battersby and Valerie Wilson


The degradation potential of 77 organic chemicals under methanogenic conditions was examined with an anaerobic digesting sludge from the United Kingdom. Degradation was assessed in terms of net total gas (CH(4) plus CO(2)) produced, expressed as a percentage of the theoretical production (ThGP). The compounds tested were selected from various chemical groups and included substituted phenols and benzoates, pesticides, phthalic acid esters, homocyclic and heterocyclic ring compounds, glycols, and monosubstituted benzenes. The results obtained were in good agreement with published surveys of biodegradability in U.S. digesting sludges and other methanogenic environments. In general, the presence of chloro or nitro groups inhibited anaerobic gas production, while carboxyl and hydroxyl groups facilitated biodegradation. The relationship between substituent position and susceptibility to methanogenic degradation was compound dependent. The following chemicals were completely degraded (≥80% ThGP) at a concentration of 50 mg of carbon per liter: phenol, 2-aminophenol, 4-cresol, catechol, sodium benzoate, 4-aminobenzoic acid, 3-chlorobenzoic acid, phthalic acid, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, triethylene glycol, sodium stearate, and quinoline. 3-Cresol, 4-chlorobenzoic acid, dimethyl phthalate, and pyridine were partially degraded. Although the remaining chemicals tested were either persistent or toxic, their behavior may differ at more environmentally realistic chemical-to-biomass ratios. Our findings suggest that biodegradability assessments made with sludge from one source can be extrapolated to sludge from another source with a reasonable degree of confidence and should help in predicting the fate of an organic chemical during the anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge

Topics: Applied Environmental and Public Health Microbiology
Year: 1989
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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