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Humic acids enhance the microbially mediated release of sedimentary ferrous iron

Chang, Chun-Han, Wei, Chia-Cheng, Lin, Li-Hung, Tu, Tzu-Hsuan, Liao, Vivian Hsiu-Chuan
Environmental science and pollution research international 2016 v.23 no.5 pp. 4176-4184
Geobacter, Methylophaga, alpha-Proteobacteria, anaerobic conditions, arsenic, bacteria, dose response, groundwater, groundwater contamination, humic acids, iron, microbial communities, population growth, sediments, toxicity
Iron (Fe) is an essential element for many organisms, but high concentrations of iron can be toxic. The complex relation between iron, arsenic (As), bacteria, and organic matter in sediments and groundwater is still an issue of environmental concern. The present study addresses the effects of humic acids and microorganisms on the mobilization of iron in sediments from an arsenic-affected area, and the microbial diversity was analyzed. The results showed that the addition of 50, 100, and 500 mg/L humic acids enhanced ferrous iron (Fe(II)) release in a time-dependent and dose-dependent fashion under anaerobic conditions. A significant increase in the soluble Fe(II) concentrations occurred in the aqueous phases of the samples during the first 2 weeks, and aqueous Fe(II) reached its maximum concentrations after 8 weeks at the following Fe(II) concentrations: 28.95 ± 1.16 mg/L (original non-sterilized sediments), 32.50 ± 0.71 mg/L (50 mg/L humic acid-amended, non-sterilized sediments), 37.50 ± 1.85 mg/L (100 mg/L humic acid-amended, non-sterilized sediments), and 39.00 ± 0.43 mg/L (500 mg/L humic acid-amended, non-sterilized sediments). These results suggest that humic acids can further enhance the microbially mediated release of sedimentary iron under anaerobic conditions. By contrast, very insignificant amounts of iron release were observed from sterilized sediments (the abiotic controls), even with the supplementation of humic acids under anaerobic incubation. In addition, the As(III) release was increased from 50 ± 10 μg/L (original non-sterilized sediments) to 110 ± 45 μg/L (100 mg/L humic acid-amended, non-sterilized sediments) after 8 weeks of anaerobic incubation. Furthermore, a microbial community analysis indicated that the predominant class was changed from Alphaproteobacteria to Deltaproteobacteria, and clearly increased populations of Geobacter sp., Paludibacter sp., and Methylophaga sp. were found after adding humic acids along with the increased release of iron and arsenic. Our findings provide evidence that humic acids can enhance the microbially mediated release of sedimentary ferrous iron in an arsenic-affected area. It is thus suggested that the control of anthropogenic humic acid use and entry into the environment is important for preventing the subsequent iron contamination in groundwater.