Biodegradation of fat, oil and grease (FOG) deposits under various redox conditions relevant to sewer environment

Xia He, Qian Zhang, Michael J. Cooney, Tao Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Fat, oil and, grease (FOG) deposits are one primary cause of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). While numerous studies have examined the formation of FOG deposits in sewer pipes, little is known about their biodegradation under sewer environments. In this study, FOG deposit biodegradation potential was determined by studying the biodegradation of calcium palmitate in laboratory under aerobic, nitrate-reducing, sulfate-reducing, and methanogenic conditions. Over 110 days of observation, calcium palmitate was biodegraded to CO2 under aerobic and nitrate-reducing conditions. An approximate 13 times higher CO2 production rate was observed under aerobic condition than under nitrate-reducing condition. Under sulfate-reducing condition, calcium palmitate was recalcitrant to biodegradation as evidenced by small reduction in sulfate. No evidence was found to support calcium palmitate degradation under methanogenic condition in the simulated sewer environment. Dominant microbial populations in the aerobic and nitrate-reducing microcosms were identified by Illumina seqeuncing, which may contain the capability to degrade calcium palmitate under both aerobic and nitrate-reducing conditions. Further study on these populations and their functional genes could shed more light on this microbial process and eventually help develop engineering solutions for SSOs control in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6059-6068
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 26 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA grant: R834871) for funding this research. The contents of this research are solely the responsibility of the grantee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USEPA. Further, USEPA does not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services mentioned in the publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Biodegradation
  • Fat, oil and grease (FOG) deposits
  • Redox conditions
  • Sewer systems


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