Characterizing Chromium Isotope Fractionation During Reduction of Cr(VI): Batch and Column Experiments
Jamieson-Hanes, Julia Helen
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Chromium (VI) is a pervasive groundwater contaminant that poses a considerable threat to human health. Remediation techniques have focused on the reduction of the highly mobile Cr(VI) to the sparingly soluble, and less toxic, Cr(III) species. Traditionally, remediation performance has been evaluated through the measurement of Cr(VI) concentrations; however, this method is both costly and time-consuming, and provides little information regarding the mechanism of Cr(VI) removal. More recently, Cr isotope analysis has been proposed as a tool for tracking Cr(VI) migration in groundwater. Redox processes have been shown to produce significant Cr isotope fractionation, where enrichment in the ⁵³Cr/⁵²Cr ratio in the remaining Cr(VI) pool is indicative of a mass-transfer process. This thesis describes laboratory batch and column experiments that evaluate the Cr isotope fractionation associated with the reduction of Cr(VI) by various materials and under various conditions. Laboratory batch experiments were conducted to characterize the isotope fractionation during Cr(VI) reduction by granular zero-valent iron (ZVI) and organic carbon (OC). A decrease in Cr(VI) concentrations was accompanied by an increase in δ⁵³Cr values for the ZVI experiments. Data were fitted to a Rayleigh-type curve, which produced a fractionation factor α = 0.9994, suggesting a sorption-dominated removal mechanism. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) indicated the presence of Cr(III) on the solid material, suggesting that reduction of Cr(VI) occurred. A series of batch experiments determined that reaction rate, experimental design, and pre-treatment of the ZVI had little to no effect on the Cr isotope fractionation. The interpretation of isotope results for the organic carbon experiments was complicated by the presence of both Cr(VI) and Cr(III) co-existing in solution, suggesting that further testing is required. A laboratory column experiment was conducted to evaluate isotopic fractionation of Cr during Cr(VI) reduction by OC under saturated flow conditions. Although decreasing dissolved Cr(VI) concentrations also were accompanied by an increase in δ⁵³Cr values, the isotope ratio values did not fit a Rayleigh-type fractionation curve. Instead, the data followed a linear regression equation yielding α = 0.9979. Solid-phase analysis indicated the presence of Cr(III) on the surface of the OC. Both the results of the solid-phase Cr and isotope analyses suggest a combination of Cr(VI) reduction mechanisms, including reduction in solution, and sorption prior to reduction. The linear characteristic of the δ⁵³Cr data may reflect the contribution of transport on Cr isotope fractionation.