Anaerobic microbial mobilization and biotransformation of arsenate adsorbed onto activated alumina

Reyes Sierra-Alvarez, Jim A. Field, Irail Cortinas, Gumersindo Feijoo, Maria Teresa Moreira, Mike Kopplin, A. Jay Gandolfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Due to the enactment of a stricter drinking water standard for arsenic in the United States, larger quantities of arsenic will be treated resulting in larger volumes of treatment residuals. The current United States Environmental Protection Agency recommendation is to dispose spent adsorbent residuals from arsenic treatment into non-hazardous municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. The potential of microorganisms to alter the speciation affecting the mobility of arsenic in the disposal environment is therefore a concern. The purpose of this paper was to evaluate the potential of an anaerobic microbial consortium to biologically mobilize arsenate (As(V)) adsorbed onto activated alumina (AA), a common adsorbent used for treating arsenic in drinking water. Three anaerobic columns (0.27 l) packed with 100 g dry weight of AA containing 0.657 mg adsorbed As(V) (expressed as arsenic) per gram dry weight were continuously flushed with synthetic landfill leachate for 257 days. The fully biologically active column was inoculated with methanogenic anaerobic sludge (10 g volatile suspended solids l-1 column) and was operated with a mixture of volatile fatty acids (VFA) in the feed (2.5 g chemical oxygen demand l-1 feed). At the end of the experiment, 37% of the arsenic was removed from the column, of which 48% was accounted for by arsenical species identified in the column effluent. The most important form of arsenic eluted was arsenite (As(III)), accounting for nearly all of the identified arsenic in periods of high mobilization. Additionally, two methylated metabolites, methylarsonic acid and dimethylarsinic acid were observed. Mobilization of arsenic is attributed to the biological reduction of As(V) to As(III) since literature data indicates that As(III) is more weakly adsorbed to AA compared to As(V). Batch and continuous assays confirmed that VFA, present in landfill leachates, served as an electron donating substrate supporting enhanced rates of As(V) reduction to As(III). Two control columns, lacking inoculum and/or VFA in the feed displayed low mobilization of arsenic compared to the fully biologically active column. Therefore, leachates generated in MSW landfills could potentially result in the biologically catalyzed mobilization of arsenic from As(V)-laden drinking water residuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-209
Number of pages11
JournalWater research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Arsenic
  • Dissimilatory arsenate reduction
  • Drinking water treatment
  • Landfill
  • Solid waste disposal
  • Speciation, arsenite, organoarsenicals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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