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A Slow-Release Substrate Stimulates Groundwater Microbial Communities for Long-Term in Situ Cr(VI) Reduction

Zhang, Ping, Van Nostrand, Joy D., He, Zhili, Chakraborty, Romy, Deng, Ye, Curtis, Daniel, Fields, Matthew W., Hazen, Terry C., Arkin, Adam P., Zhou, Jizhong
Environmental Science & Technology 2015 v.49 no.21 pp. 12922-12931
acetates, aquifers, chromium, denitrification, genes, groundwater, iron, microarray technology, microbial biomass, microbial communities, nitrate reduction, nitrates, oxidation, sulfates, toxicity
Cr(VI) is a widespread environmental contaminant that is highly toxic and soluble. Previous work indicated that a one-time amendment of polylactate hydrogen-release compound (HRC) reduced groundwater Cr(VI) concentrations for >3.5 years at a contaminated aquifer; however, microbial communities responsible for Cr(VI) reduction are poorly understood. In this study, we hypothesized that HRC amendment would significantly change the composition and structure of groundwater microbial communities, and that the abundance of key functional genes involved in HRC degradation and electron acceptor reduction would increase long-term in response to this slowly degrading, complex substrate. To test these hypotheses, groundwater microbial communities were monitored after HRC amendment for >1 year using a comprehensive functional gene microarray. The results showed that the overall functional composition and structure of groundwater microbial communities underwent sequential shifts after HRC amendment. Particularly, the abundance of functional genes involved in acetate oxidation, denitrification, dissimilatory nitrate reduction, metal reduction, and sulfate reduction significantly increased. The overall community dynamics was significantly correlated with changes in groundwater concentrations of microbial biomass, acetate, NO₃–, Cr(VI), Fe(II) and SO₄²–. Our results suggest that HRC amendment primarily stimulated key functional processes associated with HRC degradation and reduction of multiple electron acceptors in the aquifer toward long-term Cr(VI) reduction.