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Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Nov 6;46(21):11702-9. doi: 10.1021/es302145q. Epub 2012 Oct 22.

Optimization of arsenic removal water treatment system through characterization of terminal electron accepting processes.

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  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Terminal electron accepting process (TEAP) zones developed when a simulated groundwater containing dissolved oxygen (DO), nitrate, arsenate, and sulfate was treated in a fixed-bed bioreactor system consisting of two reactors (reactors A and B) in series. When the reactors were operated with an empty bed contact time (EBCT) of 20 min each, DO-, nitrate-, sulfate-, and arsenate-reducing TEAP zones were located within reactor A. As a consequence, sulfate reduction and subsequent arsenic removal through arsenic sulfide precipitation and/or arsenic adsorption on or coprecipitation with iron sulfides occurred in reactor A. This resulted in the removal of arsenic-laden solids during backwashing of reactor A. To minimize this by shifting the sulfate-reducing zone to reactor B, the EBCT of reactor A was sequentially lowered from 20 min to 15, 10, and 7 min. While 50 mg/L (0.81 mM) nitrate was completely removed at all EBCTs, more than 90% of 300 μg/L (4 μM) arsenic was removed with the total EBCT as low as 27 min. Sulfate- and arsenate-reducing bacteria were identified throughout the system through clone libraries and quantitative PCR targeting the 16S rRNA, dissimilatory (bi)sulfite reductase (dsrAB), and dissimilatory arsenate reductase (arrA) genes. Results of reverse transcriptase (RT) qPCR of partial dsrAB (i.e., dsrA) and arrA transcripts corresponded with system performance. The RT qPCR results indicated colocation of sulfate- and arsenate-reducing activities, in the presence of iron(II), suggesting their importance in arsenic removal.

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