Multiple factors have been shown to influence the assembly of sediment microbial communities. We hypo thesized that in an organically polluted aquifer, the degree of contamination controls bacterial distribution patterns, superimposing other selective forces such as sediment and mineral properties. Groundwater and sediment samples were analyzed from distinct zones of a petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated sandy aquifer that correspond to different degrees of contamination: Zone 1, with a high concentration of dissolved contaminants (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes); Zone 2, with high concentrations of sediment-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); and Zone 3, with only minor PAH contamination. Sediment analysis concentrated on 2 mineral fractions differing in many sediment properties, i.e. translucent quartz (TQ) and mica. Sediment bacterial communities were analyzed by DNA fingerprinting (terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism) and total cell counts. While Zone 1 exhibited highly similar communities on TQ and mica, the selective sorption of PAHs to mica revealed sediment bacterial communities with hardly any taxonomic units shared in Zone 2. Typical selective forces active in sediments of oligotrophic habitats, such as sediment mineral content and surface roughness, only gained influence in Zone 3. Similarly, the least contamination revealed the most pronounced differences in Shannon diversity, evenness, and total cell counts between the mineral fractions tested, with mica characterized by highest biomass and bacterial diversity. The role of contamination as a selective force is also underlined by the zone-specific dominance of key microbes involved in petroleum hydrocarbon degradation. Our results demonstrate that typical selective forces shaping aquifer sediment microbial communities are outcompeted by organic contamination.