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During the past decade, various promising technologies have been developed for the decontamination of groundwater in situ which do not require long-term pumping or high energy consumption. One approach is to use funnel and gate technology. In the case described here, the combination of adsorption of contaminants on granular activated carbon (GAC) and its biodegradation is applied to considerably extend the operating time of the filling material in the barrier system. Monochlorobenzene (MCB), a recalcitrant groundwater contaminant under anaerobic conditions, undergoes high-capacity adsorption on GAC up to about 450 mg per gram. Aerobic enrichment cultures, obtained from a contaminated aquifer, were able to mineralize initially adsorbed MCB. In respirometer experiments the rate of carbon dioxide formation was dependent on the equilibrium concentration of MCB. The oxygen consumption of activated carbon by means of autoxidative reactions may delay aerobic biodegradation in GAC filters. The oxygen uptake of pristine activated carbon amounted to 5.6 mg per gram GAC in laboratory column experiments. When GAC was pre-loaded with MCB, autoxidation rates were considerably reduced. Hence, it is advisable not to stimulate the biodegradation of MCB by oxygen supply in GAC biobarriers until after an initial period of solely sorptive MCB removal from the groundwater flow.

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