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Phosphate-Imposed Constraints on Schwertmannite Stability under Reducing Conditions

Schoepfer, ValerieA., Burton, Edward D., Johnston, Scott G., Kraal, Peter
Environmental Science & Technology 2017 v.51 no.17 pp. 9739-9746
bioavailability, environmental science, goethite, groundwater, iron, pH, phosphates, sediments, sulfates, wetlands
Schwertmannite is a ferric oxyhydroxysulfate mineral, which is common in acid sulfate systems. Such systems contain varying concentrations of phosphate (PO₄³–) an essential nutrient whose availability may be coupled to schwertmannite formation and fate. This study examines the effect of phosphate on schwertmannite stability under reducing conditions. Phosphate was added at 0, 80, 400, and 800 μmoles g–¹ (i.e., zero, low, medium, and high loading) to schwertmannite suspensions which were inoculated with wetland sediment and suspended in N₂-purged artificial groundwater. pH remained between 2.7 and 4.3 over the 41 day experiment duration. Fe(II) accumulated in solution due to dissimilatory Fe(III)-reduction, which was most pronounced at intermediate PO₄³– loadings (i.e., in the low PO₄³– treatment). Partial transformation of schwertmannite to goethite occurred in the zero and low PO₄³– treatments, with negligible transformation in higher PO₄³– treatments. Overall, the results suggest that intermediate PO₄³– loadings provide conditions which facilitate optimal reductive dissolution of schwertmannite. At zero PO₄³– loading, reductive dissolution appears to be constrained by the rapid transformation of schwertmannite to goethite, which thereby decreases the bioavailability of solid-phase Fe(III). Conversely, at high loadings, PO₄³– appears to stabilize the schwertmannite surface against dissolution; probably via the formation of strong surface complexes.