Groundwater uranium (U) concentrations have been measured above the U.S. EPA maximum contaminant level (30 μg/L) in many U.S. aquifers, including in areas not associated with anthropogenic contamination by milling or mining. In addition to carbonate, nitrate has been correlated to uranium groundwater concentrations in two major U.S. aquifers. However, to date, direct evidence that nitrate mobilizes naturally occurring U from aquifer sediments has not been presented. Here, we demonstrate that the influx of high-nitrate porewater through High Plains alluvial aquifer silt sediments bearing naturally occurring U(IV) can stimulate a nitrate-reducing microbial community capable of catalyzing the oxidation and mobilization of U into the porewater. Microbial reduction of nitrate yielded nitrite, a reactive intermediate, which was further demonstrated to abiotically mobilize U from the reduced alluvial aquifer sediments. These results indicate that microbial activity, specifically nitrate reduction to nitrite, is one mechanism driving U mobilization from aquifer sediments in addition to previously described bicarbonate-driven desorption from mineral surfaces, such as Fe(III) oxides.
|Title||Nitrate-stimulated release of naturally occurring sedimentary uranium|
|Authors||Jeffrey P Westrop, Pooja Yadav, PJ Nolan, Kate M. Campbell, Rajesh Singh, Sharon Bone, Alicia Chan, Anthony Hohtz, Donald Pan, Olivia Healy, John Bargar, Daniel D. Snow, Karrie Weber|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Environmental Science and Technology|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center|