Reduced zones in the subsurface represent biogeochemically active hotspots enriched in buried organic matter and reduced metals. Within a shallow alluvial aquifer located near Rifle, CO, reduced zones control the fate and transport of uranium (U). Though an influx of dissolved oxygen (DO) would be expected to mobilize U, we report U immobilization. Groundwater U concentrations decreased following delivery of DO (21.6 mg O2/well/h). After 23 days of DO delivery, injection of oxygenated groundwater was paused and resulted in the rebound of groundwater U concentrations to preinjection levels. When DO delivery resumed (day 51), groundwater U concentrations again decreased. The injection was halted on day 82 again and resulted in a rebound of groundwater U concentrations. DO delivery rate was increased to 54 mg O2/well/h (day 95) whereby groundwater U concentrations increased. Planktonic cell abundance remained stable throughout the experiment, but virus-to-microbial cell ratio increased 1.8-3.4-fold with initial DO delivery, indicative of microbial activity in response to DO injection. Together, these results indicate that the redox-buffering capacity of reduced sediments can prevent U mobilization, but could be overcome as delivery rate or oxidant concentration increases, mobilizing U.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry