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Open AccessArticle

Sulfur Isotope Fractionation as an Indicator of Biogeochemical Processes in an AMD Passive Bioremediation System

1
Department of Geology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
2
Environmental Resources and Policy Program, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
3
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Alton, IL 62002, USA
4
Department of Microbiology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
5
Mass Spectrometry Facility, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Javier Sánchez-España
Minerals 2017, 7(3), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/min7030041
Received: 2 February 2017 / Revised: 11 March 2017 / Accepted: 14 March 2017 / Published: 17 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biogeochemistry of Acid Mine Drainage)
Sulfate, the main dissolved contaminant in acid mine drainage (AMD), is ubiquitous in watersheds affected by coal and metal mining operations worldwide. Engineered passive bioremediation systems (PBS) are low-cost technologies that remediate sulfate contamination by promoting (1) precipitation of sulfate-bearing compounds, such as schwertmannite and gypsum; and (2) microbially-mediated sulfate reduction (BSR) to sulfide with subsequent precipitation of sulfide minerals. In this study, chemical and sulfur isotopic data are used to infer multiple pathways for sulfate sequestration in the Tab-Simco PBS. By simultaneously monitoring sulfate concentrations and δ34SSO4 values at four sampling points across the PBS, we (1) identified that the organic layer within the bioreactor was the primary site of BSR processes contributing to sulfate sequestration; (2) observed seasonal variations of BSR processes; (3) estimated that initially the BSR processes contributed up to 30% to sulfate sequestration in the Tab-Simco bioreactor; and (4) determined that BSR contribution to sulfate sequestration continuously declined over the PBS operational lifetime. Together, our results highlight the utility of combining geochemical and microbial fingerprinting techniques to decipher complementary processes involved in sulfur cycling in a PBS as well as the value of adding the sulfur isotope approach as an essential tool to help understand, predict, prevent and mitigate sulfate contamination in AMD-impacted systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: acid mine drainage; sulfur isotopes; nanoparticles; coal waste; bioremediation acid mine drainage; sulfur isotopes; nanoparticles; coal waste; bioremediation
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MDPI and ACS Style

Lefticariu, L.; Behum, P.T.; Bender, K.S.; Lefticariu, M. Sulfur Isotope Fractionation as an Indicator of Biogeochemical Processes in an AMD Passive Bioremediation System. Minerals 2017, 7, 41.

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