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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Immobilizing arsenic in contaminated anoxic aquifer sediment using sulfidated and uncoated zero-valent iron (ZVI)

Formentini, Thiago Augusto; Cornelis, Geert; Gustafsson, Jon Petter; Leicht, Kathrin; Tiberg, Charlotta; Planer-Friedrich, Britta; Durant, Neal; Fan, Dimin; Kleja, Dan B.


Arsenic (As) is carcinogenic and of major concern in groundwater. We collected sediment material from a contaminated anoxic aquifer in Sweden and investigated the immobilization of As by four commercial zero-valent iron (ZVI) particles. Solid-phase As and Fe speciation was assessed using X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and solution-phase As speciation using chromatographic separation. Without ZVI addition, arsenite dominated in solution and As(V) species in the solid phase. Adding ZVI caused a sharp increase in solution pH (9.3-9.8), favoring As oxidation despite a lowered redox potential. ZVI greatly improved As retention by complex binding of arsenate to the Fe(III) (hydr)oxides formed by ZVI corrosion. Uncoated ZVI, both in nano-and microscale, performed better than their sulfidated counterparts, partly due to occlusion of As by the Fe(III) (hydr) oxides formed. The effect of particle size (micro vs. nano ZVI) on As immobilization was small, likely because immobilization was related to the corrosion products formed, rather than the initial size of the particles. Our results provide a strong geochemical background for the application of ZVI particles to remove As in contaminated aquifers under anoxic conditions and illustrate that immobilization mechanisms can differ between ZVI in As spiked solutions and sediment suspensions.Environmental implication: Arsenic ranks first on the list by the US ATSDR of substances posing a threat to human health and the WHO considers groundwater the riskiest source for human intake of As. However, dealing with As contamination remains a scientific challenge. We studied the immobilization of groundwater As by commercially available ZVI particles at field-realistic conditions. Arsenic immobilization was highly efficient in most cases, and the results suggest this is a promising in situ strategy with long-term performance. Our results provide a strong geochemical background for using ZVI to remove As in contaminated anoxic aquifers.


Nanoparticles; Iron corrosion; Arsenic oxidation; Groundwater; Field conditions

Published in

Journal of Hazardous Materials
2024, Volume: 462, article number: 132743Publisher: ELSEVIER