AdvisorField, James A.
Sierra-Alvarez, Maria Reyes
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractUranium contamination of groundwater from mining and milling operations is an environmental concern. Reductive precipitation of soluble and mobile hexavalent uranium (U(VI)) contamination to insoluble and immobile tetravalent uranium (U(IV)) constitutes the most promising remediation approach for uranium in groundwater. Previous research has shown that many microorganisms are able to catalyze this reaction in the presence of suitable electron-donors. The purpose of this work is to explore lowcost, effective alternatives for biologically catalyzed reductive precipitation of U(VI). Methanogenic granular sludge from anaerobic reactors treating industrial wastewaters was tested for its ability to support U(VI)-reduction. Due to their high microbial diversity, methanogenic granules displayed intrinsic activity towards U(VI)-reduction. Endogenous substrates from the slow decomposition of sludge biomass provided electron-equivalents to support efficient U(VI)-reduction without external electrondonors. Continuous columns with methanogenic granules also demonstrated sustained reduction for one year at high uranium loading rates. One column fed with ethanol, only enabled a short-term enhancement in the uranium removal efficiency, and no enhancement over the long term compared to the endogenous column. Nitrate, a common co-contaminant of uranium, remobilized previously deposited biogenic U(IV). U(VI) also caused inhibition to denitrification. An enrichment culture (EC) was developed from a zero-valent iron (Fe⁰)/sand packed-bed bioreactor. During 28 months, the EC enhanced U(VI)-reduction rates by Fe⁰ compared with abiotic Fe⁰ controls. Additional experiments indicated that the EC prevented the passivation of Fe⁰ surfaces through the use of cathodic H₂ for the reduction of Fe(III) in passivating corrosion mineral phases (e.g. magnetite) to Fe²⁺. This contributed to the formation of secondary minerals more enriched with Fe(II), which are known to be chemically reactive with U(VI). To determine the toxicity of U(VI) to different populations present in uranium contaminated sites, including methanogens, denitrifiers and uranium-reducers, experiments were carried out with anaerobic mixed cultures at increasing U(VI) concentrations. Significant inhibition to the presence of U(VI) was observed for methanogens and denitrifiers. On the other hand uranium-reducing microorganisms were tolerant to high U(VI) concentrations. The results of this dissertation indicate that direct microbial reduction of U(VI) and microbially enhanced reduction of U(VI) by Fe⁰ are promising approaches for uranium bioremediation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College