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Environmental fate & pathways

Biodegradation in water and sediment: simulation tests

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In anaerobic, static sediment/water microcosms, MTBE does not biodegrade. Under mixed aerobic/anaerobic conditions biodegradation may be a significant removal process of MTBE in aerobic sediment.

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In an anaerobic, static sediment/water microcosm study by Mormile et al. (1994), MTBE was only slowly degraded under all conditions tested. After 152 days of incubation in static sediment/water microcosms only one sample showed approximately 50% decrease in MTBE content (50 g of sediment and 75 ml water were mixed with 50 ppm MTBE).

After 249 days (<8 months) of incubation, MTBE did not biodegrade (0%) under the test conditions in anaerobic, sediment/water test system (Suflita et al., 1993).

Up to 73% of MTBE were degraded to 14CO2 under mixed aerobic/anaerobic conditions during 105 days. Result indicates that biodegradation may in some cases be a significant removal process of MTBE in aerobic soil (Bradley et al., 1999). No significant mineralisation was observed under strictly anaerobic conditions.