Effects of Increasing Acidity on Metal(loid) Bioprecipitation in Groundwater: Column Studies

A.C. Davis, B.M. Patterson, M.E. Grassi, B.S. Robertson, H. Prommer, Allan Mckinley

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Large-scale column experiments were carried out over a period of 545 days to assess the effect of increasing acidity on bacterial denitrification, sulfate reduction, and metal-(loid) bioprecipitation in groundwater affected by acid mine drainage. At a groundwater pH of 5.5, denitrification and Cu2+ removal, probably via malachite (Cu-2(OH)(2)CO3) precipitation, were observed in the ethanol-amended column. Sulfate reduction, sulfide production, and Zn2+ removal were also observed,,with Zn2+ removal observed in the zone of sulfate reduction, indicating likely precipitation as sphalerite (ZnS). Se6+ removal was also observed in the sulfate reducing zone, probably as direct bioreduction to elemental selenium via ethanol/acetate oxidation or sulfide oxidation precipitating elemental sulfur. A step decrease in groundwater pH from 5.5 to 4.25 resulted in increased denitrification and sulfate reduction half-lives, migration of both these redox zones along the ethanol-amended column, and the formation of an elevated Cu2+ plume. Additionally, an elevated Zn2+ plume formed in the previous sulfate reducing zone of the ethanol-amended column, suggesting dissolution of precipitated sphalerite as a result of the reduction in groundwater pH. As Cu2+ passed through the zone of sphalerite dissolution, SEM imaging and EDS detection suggested that Cu2+ removal had occurred via chalcocite (Cu2S) or covellite (CuS) precipitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7131-7137
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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