Biodegradability of legacy crude oil contamination in Gulf War damaged groundwater wells in Northern Kuwait

Melanie Carina Bruckberger, Mathew J. Morgan, Tom Walsh, T.P. Bastow, Henning Prommer, A Mukhopadhyay, A.H. Kaksonen, Greg Davis, Geoffrey J. Puzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


During the 1991 Gulf War, oil wells in the oil fields of Kuwait were set aflame and destroyed. This resulted in severe crude oil pollution of the countries only fresh water aquifers. Here, for the first time the natural attenuation and biodegradation of the persisting groundwater contamination was investigated to assess potential processes in the aquifer. Biodegradation experiments were conducted under aerobic and multiple anaerobic conditions using microcosms of the contaminated groundwater from Kuwait. Under the conditions tested, a portion of the total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) component was degraded, however there was only a slight change in the bulk concentration of the contaminant measured as dissolved organic carbon (DOC), suggesting the presence of a recalcitrant pollutant. Changes in the associated microbial community composition under different reduction-oxidation conditions were observed and known hydrocarbon degraders identified. The results of this study indicate that lingering contaminant still persists in the groundwater and is recalcitrant to further biodegradation, which presents challenges for future remediation plans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-85
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019


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