Ding, W., Stewart, D.I., Humphreys, P.N., Rout, S.P. and Burke, I.T. (2016) Role of an organic carbon-rich soil and Fe(III) reduction in reducing the toxicity and environmental mobility of chromium(VI) at a COPR disposal site. Science of The Total Environment, 541. pp. 1191-1199. ISSN 0048-9697

Cr(VI) is an important contaminant found at sites where chromium ore processing residue (COPR) is deposited. No low cost treatment exists for Cr(VI) leaching from such sites. This study investigated the mechanism of interaction of alkaline Cr(VI)-containing leachate with an Fe(II)-containing organic matter rich soil beneath the waste. The soil currently contains 0.8% Cr, shown to be present as Cr(III)(OH)3 in EXAFS analysis. Lab tests confirmed that the reaction of Cr(VI) in site leachate with Fe(II) present in the soil was stoichiometrically correct for a reductive mechanism of Cr accumulation. However, the amount of Fe(II) present in the soil was insufficient to maintain long term Cr(VI) reduction at historic infiltration rates. The soil contains a population of bacteria dominated by a Mangroviflexus-like species, that is closely related to known fermentative bacteria, and a community capable of sustaining Fe(III) reduction in alkaline culture. It is therefore likely that in situ fermentative metabolism supported by organic matter in the soil produces more labile organic substrates (lactate was detected) that support microbial Fe(III) reduction. It is therefore suggested that addition of solid phase organic matter to soils adjacent to COPR may reduce the long term spread of Cr(VI) in the environment.

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