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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Contamination levels and preliminary assessment of the technical feasibility of employing natural attenuation in 5 priority areas of presidente bernardes refinery in cubatão, são paulo, Brazil.

Five priority areas of potential impact by contaminants (API) were investigated at the Presidente Bernardes Refinery in Cubatão, São Paulo, Brazil with the following aims: (i) to identify both organic and inorganic contaminants present in soil and groundwater; (ii) to define the environmental conditions relevant for microbial activity at the site and (iii) to evaluate the feasibility of employing natural attenuation for treatment of the hydrocarbon contamination. One area (API 1) was an uncontrolled landfill, where waste materials from the refinery were deposited between 1954 and 1986, and four areas (API 4, 5, 7 and 11) were located in the operational section of the refinery. Soil contamination by regulated BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, total xylenes) was restricted to two samples from API 1. Nonregulated ethylbenzene was detected in one soil sample from API 4, one from API 5 and two from API 1. No soil contained regulated PAH above threshold levels. Several nonregulated PAHs were found in 6 soil samples from API 1, 3 soil samples from API 4 and 1 soil sample from API 5. Site soils contained very high aluminium concentrations, but metal contamination was restricted to one soil sample from API 1, which contained nickel above threshold limits. BTEX contamination of groundwater was due mostly to benzene. Of the 17 PAH molecules tested, only naphthalene and 2-methylnaphthalene occurred in groundwater. The sum of total BTEX and total PAH exceeded 200 mug/L in only a few monitoring wells in API 4, 5 and 11 and was always below 2.640 mug/L. Be, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Se, Ag, Tl and Zn were not detected in groundwater, which was contaminated in a few locations by aluminium (mostly below 1 mg/L), lead (<0.066 mg/L) and arsenic (<0.056 mg/L). S, K, Ca, Mg and Fe were present in groundwater in excess of physiological requirements for microbial growth, but low concentrations of N and P could become growth limiting. However, BTEX were efficiently degraded in saturated and unsaturated zone microcosms and nutrient amendments did not stimulate biodegradation rates measurably. The inorganic carbon pool in groundwater was up to one order of magnitude larger than the organic carbon pool. Total inorganic carbon ( TIC) in API groundwater exceeded TIC of clean groundwater by factors of 2 (API 4), 6 (API 5, 7 and 11) or 10 (API 1). Most of the inorganic carbon incorporated into groundwater beneath the refinery originated from biodegradation in the unsaturated soil, which contained a microbiota (10(6) cells/g on average) capable of growth with most of the pure (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) and mixed hydrocarbons tested (diesel oil, gasoline, naphtha, condensate, aromatic residue and fuel oil). A viscous hydrocarbon paste uncovered in API 1 was insoluble in water but dissolved in dichloromethane. Many organic components of this paste were biodegradable as evidenced by weight reduction of the hydrocarbon paste and by the growth of suspended and attached biomass in saturated zone microcosms, where the paste was the only carbon source. This study indicates that monitored natural attenuation may be a technically feasible and efficient means for plume control in API 1, 4 and 5, provided the plumes in API 4 and 5 are not expanding. This technique is not suitable for contaminant reduction in API 11.[1]


  1. Contamination levels and preliminary assessment of the technical feasibility of employing natural attenuation in 5 priority areas of presidente bernardes refinery in cubatão, são paulo, Brazil. Schneider, R.P., Morano, S.C., Gigena, M.A., Missawa, S.K., Rocha, R.C., Silva, L.R., Ellert, N., Kataoka, S., Katsuragi, C., Rosa, C.d.a. .S., Filho, L.C. Environmental monitoring and assessment. (2006) [Pubmed]
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