Life and element cycling on Earth is directly related to electron transfer (or redox) reactions. An understanding of biogeochemical redox processes is crucial for predicting and protecting environmental health and can provide new opportunities for engineered remediation strategies. Energy can be released and stored by means of redox reactions via the oxidation of labile organic carbon or inorganic compounds (electron donors) by microorganisms coupled to the reduction of electron acceptors including humic substances, iron-bearing minerals, transition metals, metalloids, and actinides. Environmental redox processes play key roles in the formation and dissolution of mineral phases. Redox cycling of naturally occurring trace elements and their host minerals often controls the release or sequestration of inorganic contaminants. Redox processes control the chemical speciation, bioavailability, toxicity, and mobility of many major and trace elements including Fe, Mn, C, P, N, S, Cr, Cu, Co, As, Sb, Se, Hg, Tc, and U. Redox-active humic substances and mineral surfaces can catalyze the redox transformation and degradation of organic contaminants. In this review article, we highlight recent advances in our understanding of biogeochemical redox processes and their impact on contaminant fate and transport, including future research needs.
Naturally occurring manganese (Mn(iii/iv)) oxides are ubiquitous in a wide range of environmental settings and play a key role in numerous biogeochemical cycles. In addition, Mn(iii/iv) oxides are powerful oxidants that are capable of oxidizing a wide range of compounds. This review critically assesses the reactivity of Mn oxides with organic contaminants. Initial work with organic reductants employed high concentrations of model compounds (e.g., substituted phenols and anilines) and emphasized the reductive dissolution of the Mn oxides. Studies with lower concentrations of organic contaminants demonstrate that Mn oxides are capable of oxidizing a wide range of compounds (e.g., antibacterial agents, endocrine disruptors, and pesticides). Both model compounds and organic contaminants undergo similar reaction mechanisms on the oxide surface. The oxidation rates of organic compounds by manganese oxides are dependent upon solution conditions, such as pH and the presence of cations, anions, or dissolved organic matter. Similarly, physicochemical properties of the minerals used affect the rates of organic compound oxidation, which increase with the average oxidation state, redox potential, and specific surface area of the Mn oxides. Due to their reactivity with contaminants under environmentally relevant conditions, Mn oxides may oxidize contaminants in soils and/or be applied in water treatment applications.
In situ microbial reduction of soluble U(VI) to sparingly soluble U(IV) was evaluated at the site of the former S-3 Ponds in Area 3 of the U.S. Department of Energy Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research Field Research Center, Oak Ridge, TN. After establishing conditions favorable for bioremediation (Wu, et al. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2006, 40, 3988-3995), intermittent additions of ethanol were initiated within the conditioned inner loop of a nested well recirculation system. These additions initially stimulated denitrification of matrix-entrapped nitrate, but after 2 months, aqueous U levels fell from 5 to approximately 1 microM and sulfate reduction ensued. Continued additions sustained U(VI) reduction over 13 months. X-ray near-edge absorption spectroscopy (XANES) confirmed U(VI) reduction to U(IV) within the inner loop wells, with up to 51%, 35%, and 28% solid-phase U(IV) in sediment samples from the injection well, a monitoring well, and the extraction well, respectively. Microbial analyses confirmed the presence of denitrifying, sulfate-reducing, and iron-reducing bacteria in groundwater and sediments. System pH was generally maintained at less than 6.2 with low bicarbonate level (0.75-1.5 mM) and residual sulfate to suppress methanogenesis and minimize uranium mobilization. The bioavailability of sorbed U(VI) was manipulated by addition of low-level carbonate (< 5 mM) followed by ethanol (1-1.5 mM). Addition of low levels of carbonate increased the concentration of aqueous U, indicating an increased rate of U desorption due to formation of uranyl carbonate complexes. Upon ethanol addition, aqueous U(VI) levels fell, indicating that the rate of microbial reduction exceeded the rate of desorption. Sulfate levels simultaneously decreased, with a corresponding increase in sulfide. When ethanol addition ended but carbonate addition continued, soluble U levels increased, indicating faster desorption than reduction. When bicarbonate addition stopped, aqueous U levels decreased, indicating adsorption to sediments. Changes in the sequence of carbonate and ethanol addition confirmed that carbonate-controlled desorption increased bioavailability of U(VI) for reduction.
Arsenite (As III ) oxidation by manganese oxides (Mn-oxides) serves to detoxify and, under many conditions, immobilize arsenic (As) by forming arsenate (As V ). As III oxidation by Mn IV -oxides can be quite complex, involving many simultaneous forward reactions and subsequent back reactions. During As III oxidation by Mn-oxides, a reduction in oxidation rate is often observed, which is attributed to Mn-oxide surface passivation. X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and Xray diffraction (XRD) data show that Mn II sorption on a poorly-crystalline hexagonal birnessite (δ-MnO 2 ) is important in passivation early during reaction with As III . Also, it appears that Mn III in the δ-MnO 2 structure is formed by conproportionation of sorbed Mn II and Mn IV in the mineral structure. The content of Mn III within the δ-MnO 2 structure appears to increase as the reaction proceeds. Binding of As V to δ-MnO 2 also changes as Mn III becomes more prominent in the δ-MnO 2 structure. The data presented indicate that As III oxidation and As V sorption by poorlycrystalline δ-MnO 2 is greatly affected by Mn oxidation state in the δ-MnO 2 structure.
Groundwater within Area 3 of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Remediation Sciences Program (ERSP) Field Research Center at Oak Ridge, TN (ORFRC) contains up to 135 microM uranium as U(VI). Through a series of experiments at a pilot scale test facility, we explored the lower limits of groundwater U(VI) that can be achieved by in-situ biostimulation and the effects of dissolved oxygen on immobilized uranium. Weekly 2 day additions of ethanol over a 2-year period stimulated growth of denitrifying, Fe(III)-reducing, and sulfate-reducing bacteria, and immobilization of uranium as U(IV), with dissolved uranium concentrations decreasing to low levels. Following sulfite addition to remove dissolved oxygen, aqueous U(VI) concentrations fell below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agengy maximum contaminant limit (MCL) for drinking water (< 30/microg L(-1) or 0.126 microM). Under anaerobic conditions, these low concentrations were stable, even in the absence of added ethanol. However, when sulfite additions stopped, and dissolved oxygen (4.0-5.5 mg L(-1)) entered the injection well, spatially variable changes in aqueous U(VI) occurred over a 60 day period, with concentrations increasing rapidly from < 0.13 to 2.0 microM at a multilevel sampling (MLS) well located close to the injection well, but changing little at an MLS well located further away. Resumption of ethanol addition restored reduction of Fe(III), sulfate, and U(VI) within 36 h. After 2 years of ethanol addition, X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy (XANES) analyses indicated that U(IV) comprised 60-80% of the total uranium in sediment samples. Atthe completion of the project (day 1260), U concentrations in MLS wells were less than 0.1 microM. The microbial community at MLS wells with low U(VI) contained bacteria that are known to reduce uranium, including Desulfovibrio spp. and Geobacter spp., in both sediment and groundwater. The dominant Fe(III)-reducing species were Geothrix spp.
Manganese-oxides (Mn-oxides) are quite reactive, with respect to arsenite (As(III)) oxidation. However, studies regarding the pathways of As(III) oxidation, over a range of time scales, by poorly crystalline Mn-oxides, are lacking. In stirred-flow experiments, As(III) oxidation by δ-MnO₂ (a poorly crystalline form of hexagonal birnessite) is initially rapid but slows appreciably after several hours of reaction. Mn(II) is the only reduced product of δ-MnO₂ formed by As(III) oxidation during the initial, most rapid phase of the reaction. There seems to be evidence that the formation of Mn(III) observed in previous studies is a result of conproportionation of Mn(II) sorbed onto Mn(IV) reaction sites rather than from direct reduction of Mn(IV) by As(III).The only evidence of arsenic (As) sorption during As(III) oxidation by δ-MnO₂ is during the first 10 h of reaction, and As sorption is greater when As(V) and Mn(II) occur simultaneously in solution. Our findings indicate that As(III) oxidation by poorly crystalline δ-MnO₂ involves several simultaneous reactions and reinforces the importance of studying reaction mechanisms over time.
Biologically catalyzed Mn(II) oxidation produces biogenic Mn-oxides (BioMnO(x)) and may serve as one of the major formation pathways for layered Mn-oxides in soils and sediments. The structure of Mn octahedral layers in layered Mn-oxides controls its metal sequestration properties, photochemistry, oxidizing ability, and topotactic transformation to tunneled structures. This study investigates the impacts of cations (H(+), Ni(II), Na(+), and Ca(2+)) during biotic Mn(II) oxidation on the structure of Mn octahedral layers of BioMnO(x) using solution chemistry and synchrotron X-ray techniques. Results demonstrate that Mn octahedral layer symmetry and composition are sensitive to previous cations during BioMnO(x) formation. Specifically, H(+) and Ni(II) enhance vacant site formation, whereas Na(+) and Ca(2+) favor formation of Mn(III) and its ordered distribution in Mn octahedral layers. This study emphasizes the importance of the abiotic reaction between Mn(II) and BioMnO(x) and dependence of the crystal structure of BioMnO(x) on solution chemistry.
Microbial enumeration, 16S rRNA gene clone libraries, and chemical analysis were used to evaluate the in situ biological reduction and immobilization of uranium(VI) in a long-term experiment (more than 2 years) conducted at a highly uranium-contaminated site (up to 60 mg/liter and 800 mg/kg solids) of the U.S. Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, TN. Bioreduction was achieved by conditioning groundwater above ground and then stimulating growth of denitrifying, Fe(III)-reducing, and sulfate-reducing bacteria in situ through weekly injection of ethanol into the subsurface. After nearly 2 years of intermittent injection of ethanol, aqueous U levels fell below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level for drinking water and groundwater (<30 g/liter or 0.126 M). Sediment microbial communities from the treatment zone were compared with those from a control well without biostimulation. Most-probable-number estimations indicated that microorganisms implicated in bioremediation accumulated in the sediments of the treatment zone but were either absent or in very low numbers in an untreated control area. Organisms belonging to genera known to include U(VI) reducers were detected, including Desulfovibrio, Geobacter, Anaeromyxobacter, Desulfosporosinus, and Acidovorax spp. The predominant sulfate-reducing bacterial species were Desulfovibrio spp., while the iron reducers were represented by Ferribacterium spp. and Geothrix spp. Diversitybased clustering revealed differences between treated and untreated zones and also within samples of the treated area. Spatial differences in community structure within the treatment zone were likely related to the hydraulic pathway and to electron donor metabolism during biostimulation.
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