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On–Off Mobilization of Contaminants in Soils during Redox Oscillations

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journal contribution
posted on 03.03.2015, 00:00 by Raoul-Marie Couture, Laurent Charlet, Ekaterina Markelova, Benoı̂t Madé, Christopher T. Parsons
Near-surface biogeochemical systems can oscillate between oxic and anoxic conditions. Under such periodic changes many redox-sensitive inorganic contaminants undergo speciation, mobility and toxicity changes. We investigated the changes to chromium (Cr), arsenic (As), selenium (Se), antimony (Sb) and uranium (U) mobility during a series of laboratory experiments where argillaceous substrates were subjected to successive cycles of oxidizing and reducing conditions. The EH oscillated between −320 and +470 mV, induced via both abiotic and microbial forcings. Chemically induced cycles of oxidation and reduction were achieved via a combination of gas (N2:CO2 vs compressed air) and carbon (ethanol) addition, to stimulate the metabolism of a natively present microbial community. The contaminants were added either alone or as contaminant mixtures. Results show clear on–off switch mobility behavior for both major elements such as carbon (C), iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) and for contaminants. Mn, Fe, and As were mobilized under anoxic conditions, whereas Sb, Se, and U were mobilized under oxic conditions. While As, Sb, and U were reversibly sorbed, Se and Cr were irreversibly sequestered via reductive precipitation. When present in aqueous solutions at high concentrations, CrVI prevented the reduction of Mn and Fe, and inhibited the mobilization of elements with lower EHo. To improve remediation strategies for multiple contaminants in redox-dynamic environments, we propose a mixed kinetic-equilibrium biogeochemical model that can be forced by oscillating boundary conditions and that uses literature rates and constants to capture the key processes responsible for the mobilization of contaminants in soils.