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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Jul 2;47(13):6959-68. doi: 10.1021/es302662r. Epub 2012 Dec 19.

Identifying indicators of reactivity for chemical reductants in sediments.

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National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 960 College Station Road, Athens, Georgia 30605, United States.


To conduct site-specific exposure assessments for contaminants containing reducible functional groups, it is imperative to know the identity and reactivity of chemical reductants in natural sediments and to associate their reactivity with easily measurable sediment properties. For this purpose the reactivity, as defined by pseudofirst order reduction rate constants for p-cyanonitrobenzene (pCNB), was measured in twenty-one natural sediments of different origins that were incubated to attain both anoxic (less reducing) and anaerobic (microbially reducing) conditions. The reactivity of the anoxic sediments increased with pH and an increasing amount of Fe(II) added. A good electron balance between pCNB reduction and Fe(II) consumption was observed for anaerobic sediments of high solids loading (50 g/L), but not when solids loading was 5 g/L. Based on cluster and regression analysis, pCNB reactivity in the anaerobic sediments correlates strongly with aqueous Fe(II) concentrations for sediments with low organic carbon (OC) content (<4.2%), but with dissolved OC concentrations (DOC) for the sediments with high OC content (>6.4%). These observations indicate surface-associated Fe(II) and reduced DOC are the predominant reductants in the anaerobic sediments, and that aqueous Fe(II) and DOC will serve as readily measurable indicators of pCNB reactivity in these systems.

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