Effect of arsenic concentration on microbial iron reduction and arsenic speciation in an iron-rich freshwater sediment

  • Chow S
  • Taillefert M
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Depth profiles in the sediment porewaters of the Chattahoochee River (Georgia, USA) show that iron oxides scavenge arsenate in the water column and settle to the sediment-water interface (SWI) where they are reduced by iron-reducing bacteria. During their reduction, these particles seem to release arsenic to the porewaters in the form of arsenate only. Sediment slurry incubations were conducted to determine the effect of low concentrations of arsenic (≤10 μM) on biogeochemical processes in these sediments. Experiments confirm that any arsenate (As(V)) added to these sediments is immediately adsorbed in oxic conditions and released in anoxic conditions during the microbial reduction of authigenic iron oxides. Incubations in the presence of ≤1 μM As(V) reveal that arsenate is released but not concomitantly reduced during this process. Simultaneously, microbial iron reduction is enhanced significantly, spurring the simultaneous release of arsenate into porewaters and secondary formation of crystalline iron oxides. Above 1 μM As(V), however, the microbial reductive dissolution of iron oxides appears inhibited by arsenate, and arsenite is produced in excess in the porewaters. These incubations show that even low inputs of arsenic to riverine sediments may affect microbial processes, the stability of iron oxides and, indirectly, the cycling of arsenic. Possible mechanisms for such effects on iron reduction are proposed. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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  • Stephanie S. Chow

  • Martial Taillefert

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