Treatment of Alkaline Cr(VI)-Contaminated Leachate with an Alkaliphilic Metal-Reducing Bacterium.

Applied and environmental microbiology

PubMedID: 26048926

Watts MP, Khijniak TV, Boothman C, Lloyd JR. Treatment of Alkaline Cr(VI)-Contaminated Leachate with an Alkaliphilic Metal-Reducing Bacterium. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2015;.
Chromium in its toxic Cr(VI) valence state is a common contaminant particularly associated with alkaline environments. A well-publicized case of this occurred in Glasgow, United Kingdom, where poorly controlled disposal of a cementitious industrial by-product, chromite ore processing residue (COPR), has resulted in extensive contamination by Cr(VI)-contaminated alkaline leachates. In the search for viable bioremediation treatments for Cr(VI), a variety of bacteria that are capable of reduction of the toxic and highly soluble Cr(VI) to the relatively nontoxic and less mobile Cr(III) oxidation state, predominantly under circumneutral pH conditions, have been isolated. Recently, however, alkaliphilic bacteria that have the potential to reduce Cr(VI) under alkaline conditions have been identified. This study focuses on the application of a metal-reducing bacterium to the remediation of alkaline Cr(VI)-contaminated leachates from COPR. This bacterium, belonging to the Halomonas genus, was found to exhibit growth concomitant to Cr(VI) reduction under alkaline conditions (pH 10). Bacterial cells were able to rapidly remove high concentrations of aqueous Cr(VI) (2. 5 mM) under anaerobic conditions, up to a starting pH of 11. Cr(VI) reduction rates were controlled by pH, with slower removal observed at pH 11, compared to pH 10, while no removal was observed at pH 12. The reduction of aqueous Cr(VI) resulted in the precipitation of Cr(III) biominerals, which were characterized using transmission electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (TEM-EDX) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The effectiveness of this haloalkaliphilic bacterium for Cr(VI) reduction at high pH suggests potential for its use as an in situ treatment of COPR and other alkaline Cr(VI)-contaminated environments.