Chlorinated Aliphatic Hydrocarbons (CAHs) as Perchloroethylene (PCE) and Trichloroethylene (TCE) are worldwide contaminants due to their uncorrected disposal and storage in the past years. An effective remediation strategy for CAHs contaminated groundwaters is the stimulation of dechlorinating microorganisms which can carry out reductive and oxidative reactions that allowed for the complete mineralization of CAHs. More in detail, dehalorespiring microorganisms can reduce PCE and TCE throughout reductive dechlorination reaction (RD) a step happening reaction that remove a chlorine atom from the carbon skeleton of the molecule and replaces it with a hydrogen ion. Hence, aerobic dechlorinating microorganisms oxidize low chlorinated compounds such as cis-dichloroethylene (cDCE) and vinyl chloride (VC) into CO2 using enzymes, such as monooxygenases, to produce instable molecules with oxygen atom like epoxides. The combination of reductive and oxidative dechlorination could maximize the microbial activities allowing to work on the preferred substrates and can be easily tuned by the adoption of bioelectrochemical systems. In these electrochemical devices, an electrodic material interact with so-called electroactive microorganisms, acting like electron acceptor or donor of the microbial metabolism. In this study, a sequential reductive/oxidative bioelectrochemical process developed by the combination in series of two membrane-less microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) has been applied for the treatment of a CAHs contaminated groundwater coming from a polluted site in northern Italy. More in detail, the study presents the development and the validation of the sequential bioelectrochemical process under laboratory conditions and the and subsequent scale-up of the process for a field. The investigation of the laboratory scale performance was conducted by synthetic and real contaminated groundwater while the design and the characterization of the scaled-up process have been obtained with real contaminated in a field test. The scale-up allowed to increase the reactor volume 42 times (from 10 L to 420 L) dividing the reductive and the oxidative sections into 4 different columns with a volume of 105 L (Figure 1).
The field test of the bioelectrochemical technology represents the most important scaled-up application in a bioelectrochemical system devoted to the remediation of CAHs contaminated groundwater, thus, it shows an effective solution for the stimulation of microbial activity without the utilization of any chemical in a real environment.