Mineral transformation and biomass accumulation associated with uranium bioremediation at Rifle, Colorado

  • Li L
  • Steefel C
  • Williams K
 et al. 
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Injection of organic carbon into the subsurface as an electron donor for bioremediation of redox-sensitive contaminants like uranium often leads to mineral transformation and biomass accumulation, both of which can alter the flow field and potentially bioremediation efficacy. This work combines reactive transport modeling with a column experiment and field measurements to understand the biogeochemical processes and to quantify the biomass and mineral transformation/accumulation during a bioremediation experiment at a uranium contaminated site near Rifle, Colorado. We use the reactive transport model CrunchFlow to explicitly simulate microbial community dynamics of iron and sulfate reducers, and their impacts on reaction rates. The column experiment shows clear evidence of mineral precipitation, primarily in the form of calcite and iron monosulfide. At the field scale, reactive transport simulations suggest that the biogeochemical reactions occur mostly close to the injection wells where acetate concentrations are highest, with mineral precipitate and biomass accumulation reaching as high as 1.5% of the pore space. This work shows that reactive transport modeling coupled with field data can bean effective tool for quantitative estimation of mineral transformation and biomass accumulation, thus improving the design of bioremediation strategies.

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  • Li Li

  • Carl I. Steefel

  • Kenneth H. Williams

  • Michael J. Wilkins

  • Susan S. Hubbard

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