Transport and Biodegradation of Perchlorate in Soils

  • Tipton D
  • Rolston D
  • Scow K
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Perchlorate (ClO4-) contamination of ground water and surface water is a widespread problem, particularly in the western United States. This study examined the effect of biodegradation on perchlorate fate and transport in soils. Solute transport experiments were conducted on two surface soils. Pulses of solution containing perchlorate and Br- were applied to saturated soil columns at steady state water flow. Perchlorate behaved like a nonreactive tracer in Columbia loam (coarse-loamy, mixed, superactive, nonacid, thermic Oxyaquic Xerofluvent) but was degraded in Yolo loam (fine-silty, mixed, superactive, nonacid, thermic Mollic Xerofluvent). Batch experiments demonstrated that perchlorate removal from solution in Yolo loam was caused by biodegradation. Other batch experiments with Yolo loam surface and subsurface soils, Columbia loam surface soil, and dredge tailings demonstrated that perchlorate biodegradation required anaerobic conditions, an adequate carbon source, and an active perchlorate-degrading microbial population. The sequential reduction of perchlorate and NO3- by an indigenous soil microbial community in Yolo loam batch systems was also studied. Nitrate reduction occurred much sooner than perchlorate reduction in soils that had not been previously exposed to perchlorate, but NO3- and perchlorate were simultaneously reduced in soils previously exposed to perchlorate. The results of this study have implications for in situ remediation schemes and for agricultural soils that have been contaminated by perchlorate-tainted irrigation water.

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  • Deborah K. Tipton

  • Dennis E. Rolston

  • Kate M. Scow

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