Use of silicate minerals for pH control during reductive dechlorination of chloroethenes in batch cultures of different microbial consortia
In chloroethene-contaminated sites undergoing in situ bioremediation, groundwater acidification is a frequent problem in the source zone, and buffering strategies have to be implemented to maintain the pH in the neutral range. An alternative to conventional soluble buffers is silicate mineral particles as a long-term source of alkalinity. In previous studies, the buffering potentials of these minerals have been evaluated based on abiotic dissolution tests and geochemical modeling. In the present study, the buffering potentials of four silicate minerals (andradite, diopside, fayalite, and forsterite) were tested in batch cultures amended with tetrachloroethene (PCE) and inoculated with different organohalide-respiring consortia. Another objective of this study was to determine the influence of pH on the different steps of PCE dechlorination. The consortia showed significant differences in sensitivities toward acidic pH for the different dechlorination steps. Molecular analysis indicated that Dehalococcoides spp. that were present in all consortia were the most pH-sensitive organohalide-respiring guild members compared to Sulfurospirillum spp. and Dehalobacter spp. In batch cultures with silicate mineral particles as pH-buffering agents, all four minerals tested were able to maintain the pH in the appropriate range for reductive dechlorination of chloroethenes. However, complete dechlorination to ethene was observed only with forsterite, diopside, and fayalite. Dissolution of andradite increased the redox potential and did not allow dechlorination. With forsterite, diopside, and fayalite, dechlorination to ethene was observed but at much lower rates for the last two dechlorination steps than with the positive control. This indicated an inhibition effect of silicate minerals and/or their dissolution products on reductive dechlorination of cis-dichloroethene and vinyl chloride. Hence, despite the proven pH-buffering potential of silicate minerals, compatibility with the bacterial community involved in in situ bioremediation has to be carefully evaluated prior to their use for pH control at a specific site.