Research at the University of Toronto (UofT) and the University of Guelph (UofG) is expanding our understanding of the biodegradation of chlorinated methanes such as chloroform. Chloroform is a common toxic groundwater contaminant that also has the property of inhibiting key microbial processes such as methanogenesis and dechlorination of chlorinated ethenes such as TCE. Research performed at UofT has identified the first microorganism that derives energy when metabolizing chloroform to dichloromethane (Grostern et al., 2010). The microbe is a Dehalobacter species that is present in the commercial bioaugmentation culture KB-1® Plus. Further work at UofT is focusing on identifying the specific genes involved in chloroform biodegradation and developing molecular probes for identification of these genes in environmental samples.
In another project, UofG Professors Jack Trevors and Hung Lee are working collaboratively with SiREM to better understand a novel microbial culture capable of dechlorination of chlorinated methanes (carbon tetrachloride, chloroform and dichloromethane) to non-chlorinated end products. The research is funded through a Fed Dev Ontario Applied Research and Commercialization Initiative grant and an NSERC Engage program grant with the project goals to further characterize and scale up commercial cultures capable of detoxification of chlorinated methanes in the environment.