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Organic Carbon Amendments for Enhanced Biological Attenuation of Trace Organic Contaminants in Biochar-Amended Stormwater Biofilters

Lookup NU author(s): Marta Vignola, Professor David WernerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This study sought to evaluate how dissolved organic carbon (DOC) affects attenuation of trace organic contaminants (TOrCs) in biochar-amended stormwater biofilters. It was hypothesized that (1) DOC-augmented runoff would demonstrate enhanced TOrC biodegradation and (2) biochar-amended sand bearing DOC-cultivated biofilms would achieve enhanced TOrC attenuation due to sorptive retention and biodegradation. Microcosm and column experiments were conducted utilizing actual runoff, DOC from straw and compost, and a suite of TOrCs. Biodegradation of TOrCs in runoff was more enhanced by compost DOC than straw DOC (particularly for atrazine, prometon, benzotriazole, and fipronil). 16S rRNA gene quantification and sequencing revealed that growth-induced microbial community changes were, among replicates, most consistent for compost-augmented microcosms and least consistent for raw runoff microcosms. Compost DOC most robustly enhanced utilization of TOrCs as carbon substrates, possibly due to higher residual nutrient levels upon TOrC exposure. Sand columns containing just 0.5 wt % biochar maintained sorptive TOrC retention in the presence of compost-DOC-cultivated biofilms, and TOrC removal was further enhanced by biological activity. Overall, these results suggest that coamendment with biochar and compost may robustly enhance TOrC attenuation in stormwater biofilters, a finding of significance for efforts to mitigate the impacts of runoff on water quality.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ulrich BA, Vignola M, Edgehouse K, Werner D, Higgins CP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Science and Technology

Year: 2017

Volume: 51

Issue: 16

Pages: 9184-9193

Print publication date: 15/08/2017

Online publication date: 19/06/2017

Acceptance date: 19/06/2017

Date deposited: 01/08/2017

ISSN (print): 0013-936X

ISSN (electronic): 1520-5851

Publisher: American Chemical Society


DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b01164


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Funder referenceFunder name
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Initial Training Network (MERMAID) grant 607492.
National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center Program under Cooperative Agreements EEC-1028968 (ReNUWIt) and EEC-1262655
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant DGE-1057607