Iron and arsenic release from aquifer solids in response to biostimulation

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Journal of Environmental Quality



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Biostimulation has been used at various contaminated sites to promote the reductive dechlorination of trichloroethylene (TCE), but the addition of carbon and energy donor also stimulates bacteria that use Fe(III) as the terminal electron acceptor (TEA) in potential competition with dechlorination processes. Microcosm studies were conducted to determine the influence of various carbon donors on the extent of reductive dissolution of aquifer solids containing Fe(III) and arsenic. Glucose, a fermentable and respirable carbon donor, led to the production of 1500 mg Fe(II) kg−1, or 24% of the total Fe in the aquifer sediment being reduced to Fe(II), whereas the same concentration of carbon as acetate resulted in only 300 mg Fe(II) kg−1 being produced. The biogenic Fe(II) produced with acetate was exclusively associated with the solid phase whereas with fermentable carbon donors as whey and glucose, 22 and 54% of the Fe(II) was in solution. With fermentation, some of the metabolites appear to be electron shuttling chemicals and chelating agents that facilitate the reductive dissolution of even crystalline Fe(III) oxides. Without the presence of electron shuttling chemicals, only surficial Fe in direct contact with the bacteria was bioavailable, as illustrated when acetate was used. Regardless of carbon donor type and concentration, As concentrations in the water exceeded drinking water standards. The As dissolution appears to have been the result of the direct use of As as an electron acceptor by dissimilatory arsenic reducing bacteria. Our findings indicate that selection of the carbon and energy donor for biostimulation for remediation of chlorinated solvent impacted aquifers may greatly influence the extent of the reductive dissolution of iron minerals in direct competition with dechlorination processes. Biostimulation may also result in a significant release of As to the solution phase, contributing to further contamination of the aquifer.

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