We conducted a study of the relationship between the dissolution rates of organic compounds that are sparingly soluble in water and the biodegradation of these compounds by mixed cultures of bacteria. The rates of dissolution of naphthalene and 4-chlorobiphenyl were directly related to their surface areas. The bacteria caused a decline in the concentration of the soluble substrate. The rate of bacterial growth fell abruptly when 4-chlorobiphenyl or naphthalene was no longer detectable in solution. The population continued to increase in media with different surface areas of insoluble 4-chlorobiphenyl, but the final counts were higher in media in which the surface areas of the substrate were larger. The rates of dissolution of palmitic acid, octadecane, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, and 1-naphthyl N-methylcarbamate were determined in the absence of microorganisms. A mixed culture of microorganisms mineralized palmitic acid, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, and Sevin (1-naphthyl N-methylcarbamate) at a logarithmic rate, but octadecane mineralization was linear. The rates of mineralization at the end of the active phase of the biodegradation were lower than the rate of dissolution of palmitic acid but higher than the rate of dissolution of octadecane in the uninoculated medium. We suggest that spontaneous dissolution rates are only one of the factors that govern the rates of biodegradation
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