• Article

Molecular monitoring of SRB community structure and dynamics in batch experiments to examine the applicability of in situ precipitation of heavy metals for groundwater remediation

Background, Aims and Scope. Sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) are known for their capacity to reduce and precipitate heavy metals (HM) as metal sulfides, offering the opportunity to create an in situ reactive zone for the treatment of heavy metalcontaminated groundwater, a process called in situ metal precipitation (ISMP). The applicability of the ISMP technology first has to be investigated at a laboratory scale before going into an on site application. The evaluation and optimization of the ISMP process is facilitated when physical/chemical analysis techniques are combined with molecular tools that specifically monitor the abundance, diversity and dynamics of the indigenous sulfate reducing microbial community. In this study, batch experiments were conducted in order to investigate the feasibility of ISMP as a groundwater remediation strategy for an industrial site contaminated with elevated levels of Zn, Cd, Co and Ni. Methods. The potential of different types of carbon source/ electron donor (lactate, acetate, methanol, ethanol, Hydrogen Retease Compound (R), molasses) to stimulate the sulfate reduction and metal precipitation activity of the naturally present (or indigenous) SRB community was explored. In addition, the effect of amending vitamin B12 and yeast extract was evaluated. The ISMP process was monitored by combining analytical analyzes of process parameters (SO(4)(2-)concentration, heavy metal concentrations, pH, Eh) with molecular tools such as SRB subgroup and genus specific PCR, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), and phylogenetic analysis of clone sequences, based on either the 16S rRNA or the dsr (dissimilatory sulfite reductase) gene. Results and Discussion. The efficiency of different carbon-sources to stimulate the ISMP process followed the order HRC (R) > molasses > methanol > lactate > ethanol > acetate. Within 10 weeks, the highest sulfate and metal removal efficiencies ranged from 85% to 99%. Addition of yeast extract boosted the ISMP process, whereas vitamin B12 negligibly affected SRB activity. Analysis of the sulfate reducing population by SRB subgroup and genus specific PCR demonstrated that members of the genus Desulfosporosinus dominated in all batch tests, while 16S rDNA DGGE profiles additionally revealed the presence in the micro- bial communities of non-sulfate reducing bacteria within the family Clostridium and the epsilon-proteobacteria. The dsrB-based DGGE profiles allowed us to assess the diversity and dynamics of the sulfate reducing community and added to a better understanding of the effects of different batch conditions on the ISMP process. Remarkably, all dsrB sequences affiliated with the dsrB gene sequence cluster found in Desulfotomaculum, which received their xenologous dsrB gene from the 8-proteobacteria. Conclusions. The batch experiments, which aimed at stimulating the activities of the indigenous SRB communities, demonstrated that these communities were present and that their activities could be used to obtain efficient in situ precipitation of the contaminating heavy metals. This opens the possibility to test this concept in the future as an on site demonstration as part of the groundwater strategy for the heavy metal contaminated site. Although batch setups are suitable for preliminary feasibility studies for ISMP, they do not reflect the in situ situation where sulfate and heavy metal and metalloid polluted groundwater are supplied continuously. A sulfate reducing strain JG32A was isolated from whose 16S rRNA gene affiliated with the genus Desulfosporosinus, while its dsrB gene sequence clustered with Desulfotomaculum dsrB gene sequences, which received their xenologous dsr genes from 8-proteobacteria. Therefore we hypothesize that the batch experiments enrich members of the Desulfosporosinus genus that possess a non-orthologous dsrB gene. Recommendation and Perspective. The next step towards an on site pilot test for ISMP will be the setup of a series of column experiments, with process conditions that are selected based on the above mentioned results. This will allow to define optimal ISMP process conditions and to test its long-term efficacy and sustainability before going into an on site bioremediation application. By applying the described molecular tools together with physical-chemical analyzes, it can be investigated whether the same SRB community is enriched and which type of C-source is most effective in promoting and sustaining its growth and sulfatereduction activity


Geets, J., Borremans, B., Vangronsveld, J., Diels, L., & van der Lelie, D. (2005). Molecular monitoring of SRB community structure and dynamics in batch experiments to examine the applicability of in situ precipitation of heavy metals for groundwater remediation. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 5(3), 149-163.