Biodegradation of haloacetic acids by bacterial enrichment cultures

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Haloacetic acids (HAAs) are toxic organic chemicals that are frequently detected in surface waters and in drinking water distribution systems. The aerobic biodegradation of HAAs was investigated in serum bottles containing a single HAA and inoculated with washed microorganisms obtained from enrichment cultures maintained on either monochloroacetic acid (MCAA) or trichloroacetic acid (TCAA) as the sole carbon and energy source. Biodegradation was observed for each of the HAAs tested at concentrations similar to those found in surface waters and in drinking water distribution systems. The MCAA culture was able to degrade both MCAA and monobromoacetic acid (MBAA) with pseudo-first order rate constants of 1.06×10-2 and 1.13×10-2 l(mg protein)-1d-1, respectively, for concentrations ranging from 10-5 to 2 mM. The pseudo-first order rate constant for TCAA degradation by the TCAA culture was 6.52×10-3 l(mg protein)-1d-1 for concentrations ranging from 5.33×10-5 to 0.72 mM. The TCAA culture was also able to degrade MCAA with the rate accelerating as incubation time increased. Experiments with radiolabeled HAAs indicated that the 14C was primarily converted to 14CO2 with minor incorporation into cell biomass. The community structure of the enrichment cultures was analyzed by both cultivation-dependent and cultivation-independent approaches. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of the PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene fragments showed that each of the two enrichment cultures had multiple bacterial populations, none of which corresponded to HAA-degrading bacteria cultivated on HAA-supplemented agar plates. This research indicates that biodegradation is a potential loss mechanism for HAAs in surface waters and in drinking water distribution systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-925
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A US Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) fellowship to B.M. McRae supported this research.


  • Disinfection byproducts
  • Environmental fate
  • Monobromoacetic acid
  • Monochloroacetic acid
  • Trichloroacetic acid


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