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Pilot plant for bioremediation of mercury-containing industrial wastewater

, : Pilot plant for bioremediation of mercury-containing industrial wastewater. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 62(2-3): 124-133

Mercury is an extremely toxic pollutant that is currently being emitted mainly by low level industrial sources. It is distributed globally through the atmosphere, from where it precipitates onto the surface of the Earth, enters aquatic organisms, accumulates in fish and finally affects the health of human populations. Microbes have evolved a mechanism for mercury detoxification [mercury resistance operon ( mer)] based on intracellular reduction of Hg(2+) to non-toxic Hg(0) by the mercuric reductase enzyme and subsequent diffusional loss of Hg(0) from the cell. It was shown that Hg(0) produced by microbial detoxification can be retained quantitatively in packed bed bioreactors, in which biofilms of mercury-resistant bacteria are grown on porous carrier material. This review describes operation of this system on a technical, fully automated, scale, and its operation at a chloralkali electrolysis factory. It was shown to work with high efficiency under fluctuating mercury concentrations and to be robust against transiently toxic conditions. The gradient of mercury concentration in the technical scale system exerted a strong selective pressure on the microbial community, which resulted in a succession of mercury-resistant strains at high mercury concentrations and an increase in phylogenetic and functional diversity at low mercury concentrations. Clean-up of mercury-containing wastewater by mercury-resistant microbes is a simple, environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative to current treatment technologies.


PMID: 12734694

DOI: 10.1007/s00253-003-1322-7

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