Chromium diffusion and reduction in soil aggregates

Tetsu K. Tokunaga, Jiamin Wan, Mary K. Firestone, Terry C. Hazen, Egbert Schwartz, Stephen R. Sutton, Matthew Newville

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68 Scopus citations


The distribution of metal contaminants such as chromium in soil's can be strongly localized by transport limitations and redox gradients within soil aggregates. Measurements of Cr(VI) diffusion and reduction to Cr(III) were obtained in soil columns representing transects into soil aggregates in order to quantify influences of organic carbon (OC) and redox potentials on Cr transport distances and microbial community composition. Shifts in characteristic redox potentials, and the extent of Cr(VI) reduction to Cr(III) were related to OC availability. Depth profiles of Cr(VI, III) obtained with micro X-ray absorption near edge structure (micro-XANES) spectroscopy reflected interdependent effects of diffusion and spatially dependent redox potentials on reduction kinetics and microbial community composition. Shallow diffusion depths (2-10 mm) and very sharply terminated diffusion fronts in columns amended with OC (80 and 800 ppm) reflected rapid increases in Cr reduction kinetics over very short (mm) distances. These results suggest that Cr contamination in soils can be restricted to the outsides of soil aggregates due to localized transport and rapid reduction and that bulk sample characterization is inadequate for understanding the controlling biogeochemical processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3169-3174
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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