Electrode-Based Approach for Monitoring In Situ Microbial Activity During Subsurface Bioremediation

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.
Environmental Science and Technology (Impact Factor: 5.33). 11/2009; 44(1):47-54. DOI: 10.1021/es9017464
Source: PubMed


Current production by microorganisms colonizing subsurface electrodes and its relationship to substrate availability and microbial activity was evaluated in an aquifer undergoing bioremediation. Borehole graphite anodes were installed downgradient from a region of acetate injection designed to stimulate bioreduction of U(VI); cathodes consisted of graphite electrodes embedded at the ground surface. Significant increases in current density (< or =50 mA/m2) tracked delivery of acetate to the electrodes, dropping rapidly when acetate inputs were discontinued. An upgradient control electrode not exposed to acetate produced low, steady currents (< or =0.2 mA/m2). Elevated current was strongly correlated with uranium removal but minimal correlation existed with elevated Fe(II). Confocal laser scanning microscopy of electrodes revealed firmly attached biofilms, and analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences indicated the electrode surfaces were dominated (67-80%) by Geobacter species. This is the first demonstration that electrodes can produce readily detectable currents despite long-range (6 m) separation of anode and cathode, and these results suggest that oxidation of acetate coupled to electron transfer to electrodes by Geobacter species was the primary source of current. Thus it is expected that current production may serve as an effective proxy for monitoring in situ microbial activity in a variety of subsurface anoxic environments.

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