M.S. Thombre1, B.M. Thomson1,3, and L.L. Barton2, 1Department of Civil Engineering, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, 87131, Phone: 505-277-2722, FAX: 505-277-1988; 2Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, 87131, Phone: 505-277-2537; and 3Email: bthomson@unm.edu

ABSTRACT Previous work at the University of New Mexico and elsewhere has shown that sulfate-reducing bacteria are capable of reducing uranium from the soluble +6 oxidation state to the insoluble +4 oxidation state. This chemistry forms the basis of a proposed ground water remediation strategy in which microbial reduction would be used to immobilize soluble uranium. One such system would consist of a subsurface permeable barrier which would stimulate microbial growth resulting in the reduction of sulfate and nitrate and immobilization of metals while permitting the unhindered flow of ground water through it. This research investigated some of the engineering considerations associated with a microbial reducing barrier such as identifying an appropriate biological substrate, estimating the rate of substrate utilization, and identifying the final fate of the contaminants concentrated in the barrier matrix. The performance of batch reactors and column systems that treated simulated plume water was evaluated using cellulose, wheat straw, alfalfa hay, sawdust, and soluble starch as substrates. The concentrations of sulfate, nitrate, and U(VI) were monitored over time. Precipitates from each system were collected, and the precipitated U(IV) was determined to be crystalline UO2(s) by x-ray diffraction. The results of this study support the proposed use of cellulosic substrates as candidate barrier materials.

KEY WORDS: sulfate reduction, uranium reduction, permeable barriers

This paper is from the Proceedings of the HSRC/WERC Joint Conference on the Environment, May 1996, published in hard copy and on the Web by the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain Hazardous Substance Research Center.

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