Bioremoval of priority polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by a microbial community with high sorption ability

Sandra Sanches, Mónica Martins, Ana F. Silva, Claudia F. Galinha, Maria A. Santos, Inês A.C. Pereira, Maria Teresa Barreto Crespo

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11 Citations (Scopus)


The treatment of large volumes of wastewater during oil refining is presently a challenge. Bioremediation has been considered an eco-friendly approach for the removal of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are one of the most hazardous groups of organic micropollutants. However, it is crucial to identify native PAH-removing microorganisms for the development of an effective bioremediation process. This study reports the high potential of an anaerobic microbial consortium enriched from a petrochemical refinery wastewater to remove two priority PAHs—acenaphthene and phenanthrene. Seventy-seven percent of acenaphthene was removed within 17 h, whereas phenanthrene was no longer detected after 15 h. Bioremoval rates were extremely high (0.086 and 0.156 h−1 for acenaphthene and phenanthrene, respectively). The characterization of the microbial communities by next-generation sequencing and fluorescence in situ hybridization showed that the PAH-removing consortium was mainly composed by bacteria affiliated to Diaphorobacter and Paracoccus genera, independently of the PAH tested. Moreover, besides biodegradation, biosorption was a relevant mechanism involved in the removal of both PAHs, which is an important finding since biosorption is less expensive than biodegradation and can be carried out with dead biomass. Although biodegradation is the most commonly reported biological mechanism for PAH removal, this study demonstrated that biosorption by this microbial community may be extremely efficient for their removal. Given the outstanding ability of this microbial consortium to quickly remove the compounds addressed, it could be further applied for the bioremediation of PAHs in refinery wastewaters and other contaminated environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3550-3561
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Anaerobic bioremoval
  • Biosorption
  • Microbial community characterization
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Refinery wastewater


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