American Chemical Society
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Chromate Reduction and Retention Processes within Arid Subsurface Environments

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journal contribution
posted on 2005-10-15, 00:00 authored by Matthew Ginder-Vogel, Thomas Borch, Melanie A. Mayes, Phillip M. Jardine, Scott Fendorf
Chromate is a widespread contaminant that has deleterious impacts on human health, the mobility and toxicity of which are diminished by reduction to Cr(III). While biological and chemical reduction reactions of Cr(VI) are well resolved, reduction within natural sediments, particularly of arid environments, remains poorly described. Here, we examine chromate reduction within arid sediments from the Hanford, WA site, where Fe(III) (hydr)oxide and carbonate coatings limit mineral reactivity. Chromium(VI) reduction by Hanford sediments is negligible unless pretreated with acid; acidic pretreatment of packed mineral beds having a Cr(VI) feed solution results in Cr(III) associating with the minerals antigorite and lizardite in addition to magnetite and Fe(II)-bearing clay minerals. Highly alkaline conditions (pH > 14), representative of conditions near high-level nuclear waste tanks, result in Fe(II) dissolution and concurrent Cr(VI) reduction. Additionally, Cr(III) and Cr(VI) are found associated with portlandite, suggesting a secondary mechanism for chromium retention at high pH. Thus, mineral reactivity is limited within this arid environment and appreciable reduction of Cr(VI) is restricted to highly alkaline conditions resulting near leaking radioactive waste disposal tanks.