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Bioremediation of arsenic contaminated groundwater.

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Sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) mediate the reduction of metals/metalloids directly or indirectly. Bioremediation of arsenic contaminated water could be a cost-effective process provided a cheap carbon source is used. To this end, molasses was tested as a possible source of carbon for the growth of sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB). Its chemical composition and the tolerance of SRB toward different arsenic species [As (III) and As (V)] were also investigated. Batch culture studies were carried out to assess 1, 2.5 and 5 g l-1 molasses as suitable concentrations for SRB growth. The results indicate that molasses does support SRB growth, the level of response being dependent on the concentration; however, growth on molasses was not as good as that obtained when lactate, the usual carbon source for SRB, was used. The molasses used in this study contained several metals including Al, As, Cu, Fe, Mn and Zn in concentrations ranging from 0.54-19.7 ìg g-1, but these levels were not toxic to the SRB. Arsenic tolerance, growth response and sulphate-reducing activity of the SRB were investigated using arsenite and arsenate solutions at final concentrations of 1, 5 and 20 mg l-1 for each species. The results revealed that very little SRB growth occurred at concentrations of 20 mg l-1 As (III) or As (V). At lower concentrations, the SRB grew better in As (V) than in As (III). Batch cultures of sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) in flasks containing pine bark, sand and polystyrene as support matrices and Postgate medium B were used to study formation of biofilms. The effects of the support matrices on the growth of the organisms were evaluated on the basis of pH and redox potential change and the levels of sulphide production and sulphate reduction. Characterisation of the matrix surfaces was done by means of environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM). A consortium of SRB growing on polystyrene caused a 49% of original sulphate reduction whereas on sand a 36% reduction occurred. Polystyrene was further examined for its durability as a long-term support material for the growing of SRB in the presence of As(III) and/or As(V) at concentrations of 1, 5 and 20 mg l-1. Both sulphate reduction and sulphide production were greater in this immobilised system than in the matrix-free control cultures. With pine bark as support matrix no significant sulphate reduction was observed. The kinetics of sulphate reduction by the immobilised cells were compared with those of planktonic SRB and found to be superior. The leaching of organic compounds, particularly phenolic substances, from the pine bark had a detrimental effect on the growth of the SRB. Different proportions of pine bark extract were used to prepare media to investigate this problem. Growth of SRB was totally inhibited when 100% pine bark extract was used. Analysis of these extracts showed the concentration of phenolics increased from 0.33 mg l-1 to 7.36 mg l-1 over the extraction interval of 15 min to 5 days. Digested samples of pine bark also showed the presence of heavy metals. The effects of nitrate, iron and sulphate and combinations thereof were investigated on the growth of a mixed culture of sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB). The addition of 30 mg l-1 nitrate does not inhibit the production of sulphide by SRB when either 50 or 150 mg l-1 sulphate was present. The redox potential was decreased from 204 to -239 mV at the end of the 14 day batch experiment in the presence of 150 mg l-1 sulphate and 30 mg l-1 nitrate. The sulphate reduction activity of the SRB in the presence of 30 mg l-1 nitrate and 100 mg l-1 iron was about 42% of original sulphate, while if no iron was added, the reduction was only 34%. In the presence of 20 mg l-1 either As(III) or As(V), but particularly the former, growth of the SRB was inhibited when the cells were cultured in modified Postgate medium in the presence of 30 mg l-1 nitrate. The bioremoval of arsenic species [As(III) or As(V)] in the presence of mixed cultures of sulphate-reducing bacteria was investigated. During growth of a mixed SRB culture adapted to 0.1 mg l-1 arsenic species through repeated sub-culturing, 1 mg l-1 of either As(III) or As(V) was reduced to 0.3 and 0.13 mg l-1, respectively. Sorption experiments on the precipitate produced by batch cultured sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB-PP) indicated a removal of about 77% and 55% of As(V) and As(III) respectively under the following conditions: pH 6.9; biomass (2 g l-1); 24 h contact time; initial arsenic concentration,1 mg l-1 of either species. These results were compared with synthetic iron sulphide as adsorbent. The adsorption data were fitted to Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms. Energy dispersive x-ray (EDX) analysis showed the SRB-PP contained elements such as sulphur, iron, calcium and phosphorus. Biosorption studies indicated that SRB cell pellets removed about 6.6% of the As(III) and 10.5% of the As(V) from water containing an initial concentration of 1 mg l-1 of either arsenic species after 24 h contact. Arsenic species were precipitated out of synthetic arsenic-contaminated groundwater by reacting it with the gaseous biogenic hydrogen sulphide generated during the growth of SRB. The percentage removal of arsenic species was dependent on the initial arsenic concentration present. Lastly, laboratory scale bioreactors were used to investigate the treatment of arsenic species contaminated synthetic groundwater. A mixed culture of SRB with molasses as a carbon source was immobilised on a polystyrene support matrix. The synthetic groundwater contained either As(III) or As(V) at concentrations of 20, 10, 5, 1 or 0.1 mg l-1 as well as 0.1 mg l-1 of a mixture with As(III) accounting for 20, 30, 40, 60 and 80% of the total. More that 90% and 60% of the As(V) and As(III) respectively were removed by the end of the 14-day experiment. At an initial concentration of 0.1 mg l-1 total arsenic had been reduced to below the WHO acceptable level of 10 ìg l-1 when the proportion of As(III) was 20 and 30%, while at 40% As(III) this level was reached only when the treatment time was increased to 21 days. The efficiency of As(III) removal was increased by first oxidising it to As(V) using MnO2.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2008.


Bioremediation., Groundwater--Pollution., Groundwater--Purification., Groundwater--Arsenic content., Hazardous waste--Biodegradation., Arsenic., Theses--Plant pathology.