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Arsenite removal without thioarsenite formation in a sulfidogenic system driven by sulfur reducing bacteria under acidic conditions

Sun, Jianliang, Hong, Yaowu, Guo, Jiahua, Yang, Jierui, Huang, Duanyi, Lin, Zichao, Jiang, Feng
Water research 2019 v.151 pp. 362-370
Desulfurella, acid tolerance, arsenic, arsenites, bioreactors, byproducts, effluents, electron transfer, long term experiments, pH, sulfate-reducing bacteria, sulfates, sulfur
Sulfidogenic process using sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) has been used to remove arsenite from the arsenic-contaminated waters through the precipitation of arsenite with sulfide. However, excessive sulfide production and significant pH increase induced by sulfate reduction result in the formation of the mobile thioarsenite by-products and the inefficiency and instability of arsenite removal, especially when the arsenite level fluctuates. In this study, we proposed a novel sulfidogenic process driven by sulfur reducing bacteria (S0RB) for the arsenite removal under acidic conditions. In a long term experiment, efficient sulfide production (0.42 ± 0.2 kg S/m3-d) was achieved without changing the acidic condition (pH around 4.3) in a sulfur reduction bio-reactor. With the acidic sulfide-containing effluents from the bio-reactor, over 99% of arsenite (10 mg As/L) in the arsenic-contaminated water was precipitated without the formation of soluble thioarsenite by-products, even in the presence of excessive sulfide. Maintaining the acidic condition (pH around 4.3) of the sulfide-containing effluent was essential to ensure the efficient arsenite precipitation and minimize the formation of thioarsenite by-products when the arsenite to sulfide molar ratios ranged from 0.1 to 0.46. An acid-tolerant S0RB, Desulfurella, was found to be responsible for the efficient dissimilatory sulfur reduction under acidic conditions without changing the solution pH significantly. The microbial sulfur reduction may proceed through the direct electron transfer between the S0RB and sulfur particles, and also through the indirect electron transport mediated by electron carriers. The findings of this study demonstrate that the proposed sulfidogenic process driven by S0RB working under acidic conditions can be a promising alternative to the SRB-based process for arsenite removal from the arsenic-contaminated waters.