Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


HARRIS, Savannah M., Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) and Department of Geology, University of Georgia, PO Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802 and MILLS, Gary, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL), University of Georgia, PO Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802,

Contamination in aquatic systems can be remediated naturally through microbially-mediated redox reactions that take place under reducing conditions such as those prevalent in wetlands. Constructed wetlands can be designed to enhance this process for removal of heavy metals by providing an abundance of organic matter, and more specifically a carbon source, in the form of aquatic plants and by supplying additional sulfate through gypsum amendments to the sediment at the time of construction. Growth of sulfate-reducing bacterial populations will be supported in this environment because they can use sulfate as a terminal electron acceptor in the process of oxidizing carbon for energy. When sulfate is microbially reduced to sulfide, sulfide is then available to precipitate with divalent metal cations, such as Cu2+ and Zn2+.

Metal-sulfide precipitates are generally stable under reducing conditions and serve as a means to sequester metals in aquatic systems. A constructed wetland on the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, SC, facilitates the removal of Cu and Zn from processing facility effluent in this manner. Metal-sulfides present in the sediments are currently being quantified using acid volatile sulfide (AVS) analysis. Also underway are sediment resuspension studies aimed at determining the risk for storm events to produce conditions under which metal-sulfide stability might be compromised, in which case harmful release of metals into the receiving waterway could potentially occur.