Nonylphenol (NP) is an endocrine disruptor present as a pollutant in river sediment. Biodegradation of NP can reduce its toxicological risk. As sediments are mainly anaerobic, degradation of linear (4-n-NP) and branched nonylphenol (tNP) was studied under methanogenic, sulphate reducing and denitrifying conditions in NP polluted river sediment. Anaerobic bioconversion was observed only for linear NP under denitrifying conditions. The microbial population involved herein was further studied by enrichment and molecular characterization. The largest change in diversity was observed between the enrichments of the third and fourth generation, and further enrichment did not affect the diversity. This implies that different microorganisms are involved in the degradation of 4-n-NP in the sediment. The major degrading bacteria were most closely related to denitrifying hexadecane degraders and linear alkyl benzene sulphonate (LAS) degraders. The molecular structures of alkanes and LAS are similar to the linear chain of 4-n-NP, this might indicate that the biodegradation of linear NP under denitrifying conditions starts at the nonyl chain. Initiation of anaerobic NP degradation was further tested using phenol as a structure analogue. Phenol was chosen instead of an aliphatic analogue, because phenol is the common structure present in all NP isomers while the structure of the aliphatic chain differs per isomer. Phenol was degraded in all cases, but did not affect the linear NP degradation under denitrifying conditions and did not initiate the degradation of tNP and linear NP under the other tested conditions.
- anaerobic degradation
- nonionic surfactants