Arsenic remediation by formation of arsenic sulfide minerals in a continuous anaerobic bioreactor

Lucia Rodriguez-Freire, Sarah E. Moore, Reyes Sierra-Alvarez, Robert A. Root, Jon Chorover, James A. Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Arsenic (As) is a highly toxic metalloid that has been identified at high concentrations in groundwater in certain locations around the world. Concurrent microbial reduction of arsenate (AsV) and sulfate (SO42-) can result in the formation of poorly soluble arsenic sulfide minerals (ASM). The objective of this research was to study As biomineralization in a minimal iron environment for the bioremediation of As-contaminated groundwater using simultaneous AsV and SO42- reduction. A continuous-flow anaerobic bioreactor was maintained at slightly acidic pH (6.25-6.50) and fed with AsV and SO42-, utilizing ethanol as an electron donor for over 250 d. A second bioreactor running under the same conditions but lacking SO42- was operated as a control to study the fate of As (without S). The reactor fed with SO42- removed an average 91.2% of the total soluble As at volumetric rates up to 2.9mg As/(L·h), while less than 5% removal was observed in the control bioreactor. Soluble S removal occurred with an S to As molar ratio of 1.2, suggesting the formation of a mixture of orpiment- (As2S3) and realgar-like (AsS) solid phases. Solid phase characterization using K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy confirmed the formation of a mixture of As2S3 and AsS. These results indicate that a bioremediation process relying on the addition of a simple, low-cost electron donor offers potential to promote the removal of As from groundwater with naturally occurring or added SO42- by precipitation of ASM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-530
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


  • Arsenate reduction
  • Biomineralization
  • Bioremediation
  • Orpiment
  • Realgar
  • Sulfate reduction


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