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Microbial transformations of arsenic: Mobilization from glauconitic sediments to water

May 31, 2012

In the Inner Coastal Plain of New Jersey, arsenic (As) is released from glauconitic sediment to carbon- and nutrient-rich shallow groundwater. This As-rich groundwater discharges to a major area stream. We hypothesize that microbes play an active role in the mobilization of As from glauconitic subsurface sediments into groundwater in the Inner Coastal Plain of New Jersey. We have examined the potential impact of microbial activity on the mobilization of arsenic from subsurface sediments into the groundwater at a site on Crosswicks Creek in southern New Jersey. The As contents of sediments 33–90 cm below the streambed were found to range from 15 to 26.4 mg/kg, with siderite forming at depth. Groundwater beneath the streambed contains As at concentrations up to 89 μg/L. Microcosms developed from site sediments released 23 μg/L of As, and active microbial reduction of As(V) was observed in microcosms developed from site groundwater. DNA extracted from site sediments was amplified with primers for the 16S rRNA gene and the arsenate respiratory reductase gene, arrA, and indicated the presence of a diverse anaerobic microbial community, as well as the presence of potential arsenic-reducing bacteria. In addition, high iron (Fe) concentrations in groundwater and the presence of iron-reducing microbial genera suggests that Fe reduction in minerals may provide an additional mechanism for release of associated As, while arsenic-reducing microorganisms may serve to enhance the mobility of As in groundwater at this site.