Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Gene F. Parkin

First Committee Member

Chi-Lien Cheng

Second Committee Member

Timothy E Mattes

Third Committee Member

Michelle M Scherer

Fourth Committee Member

Jerald L Schnoor


Perchlorate is a known inhibitor of the human thyroid gland. Perchlorate is destroyed by ubiquitous perchlorate-reducing bacteria. The bacteria often lack sufficient electron donor. Research was undertaken to evaluate the relationship between plants and perchlorate-reducing bacteria. To what degree can plant-produced electron donors stimulate perchlorate reduction in low organic carbon (LOC) and high organic carbon (HOC) soil? A complication is that plants have been shown to influence redox conditions which may inhibit perchlorate reduction. The removal of perchlorate in a flow-through reactor was monitored with variables of soil organic carbon, hybrid poplar trees, and bioaugmentation. The biodiversity was monitored using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis.

Low oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) was shown to indicate the capacity for greater perchlorate removal in soil. However, in planted LOC soil systems, evidence suggests that perchlorate reduction may also be possible at higher bulk redox conditions than previously observed. Increased hydraulic retention time was shown to both lower bulk ORP and increase perchlorate removal.

Radiolabeled perchlorate was used to find that in planted systems as much as 11.7% of the influent perchlorate mass was taken up into the tree and 82% of the perchlorate taken up was accumulated in the leaves. The plant contribution to total perchlorate removal in nonbioaugmented LOC soil was 39%, with the balance of the removal being attributed to microbial reduction. In bioaugmented soil the microbial contribution to perchlorate removal was increased.

Just planting poplar trees decreased the diversity of perchlorate reducers in the soil. However, when LOC soil was both planted and bioaugmented, the diversity of perchlorate reducers was not decreased. In HOC soil, the presence of an indigenous population of microorganisms competed with perchlorate reducers. At the increased ORP observed in planted HOC soil, the non-perchlorate-reducing bacteria appear to outcompete the perchlorate reducers and perchlorate removal is decreased.

Engineering implications of this research are that perchlorate remediation in HOC soil does not benefit from planting hybrid poplar trees but that remediation in LOC soil is stimulated by planting and bioaugmentation.


chlorite dismutase, Organic Carbon, Perchlorate, Phytoremediation, Redox, uptake


xiv, 125 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 117-125).


Copyright 2009 Garrett Cletus Struckhoff