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Relationship Of Hydrogen Bioavailability To Chromate Reduction In Aquifer Sediments

Tamara L. Marsh, Michael J. McInerney

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ABSTRACT Biological Cr(VI) reduction was studied in anaerobic sediments from an aquifer in Norman, Okla. Microcosms containing sediment and mineral medium were amended with various electron donors to determine those most important for biological Cr(VI) reduction. Cr(VI) (about 340 μM) was reduced with endogenous substrates (no donor), or acetate was added. The addition of formate, hydrogen, and glucose stimulated Cr(VI) reduction compared with reduction in unamended controls. From these sediments, an anaerobic Cr(VI)-utilizing enrichment was obtained that was dependent upon hydrogen for both growth and Cr(VI) reduction. No methane was produced by the enrichment, which reduced about 750 μM Cr(VI) in less than six days. The dissolved hydrogen concentration was used as an indicator of the terminal electron accepting process occurring in the sediments. Microcosms with sediments, groundwater, and chromate metabolized hydrogen to a concentration below the detection limits of the mercury vapor gas chromatograph. In microcosms without chromate, the hydrogen concentration was about 8 nM, a concentration comparable to that under methanogenic conditions. When these microcosms were amended with 500 μM Cr(VI), the dissolved hydrogen concentration quickly fell below the detection limits. These results showed that the hydrogen concentration under chromate-reducing conditions became very low, as low as that reported under nitrate- and manganese-reducing conditions, a result consistent with the free energy changes for these reactions. The utilization of formate, lactate, hydrogen, and glucose as electron donors for Cr(VI) reduction indicates that increasing the availability of hydrogen results in a greater capacity for Cr(VI) reduction. This conclusion is supported by the existence of an enrichment dependent upon hydrogen for growth and Cr(VI) reduction.