Arsenic Mobilization from Historically Contaminated Mining Soils in a Continuously Operated Bioreactor: Implications for Risk Assessment
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Concentrations of soil arsenic (As) in the vicinity of the former Złoty Stok gold mine (Lower Silesia, southwest Poland) exceed 1000 μg g–1 in the area, posing an inherent threat to neighboring bodies of water. This study investigated continuous As mobilization under reducing conditions for more than 3 months. In particular, the capacity of autochthonic microflora that live on natural organic matter as the sole carbon/electron source for mobilizing As was assessed. A biphasic mobilization of As was observed. In the first two months, As mobilization was mainly conferred by Mn dissolution despite the prevalence of Fe (0.1 wt % vs 5.4 for Mn and Fe, respectively) as indicated by multiple regression analysis. Thereafter, the sudden increase in aqueous As[III] (up to 2400 μg L–1) was attributed to an almost quintupling of the autochthonic dissimilatory As-reducing community (quantitative polymerase chain reaction). The aqueous speciation influenced by microbial activity led to a reduction of solid phase As species (X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy) and a change in the elemental composition of As hotspots (micro X-ray fluorescence mapping). The depletion of most natural dissolved organic matter and the fact that an extensive mobilization of As[III] occurred after two months raises concerns about the long-term stability of historically As-contaminated sites.