U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Environ. Sci. Technol. 2008, 42, 4384–4390


A laboratory incubation experiment was conducted with uranium contaminated subsurface sediment to assess the geochemical and microbial community response to ethanol amendment. A classical sequence of terminal electron-accepting processes (TEAPs) was observed in ethanol-amended slurries, with NO3- reduction, Fe(III) reduction, SO42- reduction, and CH4 production proceeding in sequence until all of the added 13Cethanol (9 mM) was consumed. Approximately 60% of the U(VI) content of the sediment was reduced during the period of Fe(III) reduction. No additional U(VI) reduction took place during the sulfate-reducing and methanogenic phases of the experiment. Only gradual reduction of NO3-, and no reduction of U(VI), took place in ethanol-free slurries. Stimulation of additional Fe(III) or SO42- reduction in the ethanol-amended slurries failed to promote further U(VI) reduction. Reverse transcribed 16S rRNA clone libraries revealed major increases in the abundance of organisms related to Dechloromonas, Geobacter, and Herbaspirillum in the ethanol-amended slurries. Phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) indicative of Geobacter showed a distinct increase in the amended slurries, and analysis of PLFA 13C/12C ratios confirmed the incorporation of ethanol into these PLFAs. An increase in the abundance of 13C-labeled PLFAs indicative of Desulfobacter, Desulfotomaculum, and Desulfovibrio took place during the brief period of sulfate reduction that followed the Fe(III) reduction phase. Our results show that major redox processes in ethanol-amended sediments can be reliably interpreted in terms of standard conceptual models of TEAPs in sediments. However, the redox speciation of uranium is complex and cannot be explained based on simplified thermodynamic considerations.