A permeable reactive barrier, designed to remove metals and generate alkalinity by promoting sulfate reduction and metal sulfide precipitation, was installed in August 1995 into an aquifer containing effluent from mine tailings. Passage of groundwater through the barrier results in striking improvement in water quality. Dramatic changes in concentrations of SO4 (decrease of 2000−3000 mg/L), Fe (decrease of 270−1300 mg/L), trace metals (e.g., Ni decreases 30 mg/L), and alkalinity (increase of 800−2700 mg/L) are observed. Populations of sulfate reducing bacteria are 10 000 times greater, and bacterial activity, as measured by dehydrogenase activity, is 10 times higher within the barrier compared to the up-gradient aquifer. Dissolved sulfide concentrations increase by 0.2−120 mg/L, and the isotope 34S is enriched relative to 32S in the dissolved phase SO42- within the barrier. Water chemistry, coupled with geochemical speciation modeling, indicates the pore water in the barrier becomes supersaturated with respect to amorphous Fe sulfide. Solid phase analysis of the reactive mixture indicates the accumulation of Fe monosulfide precipitates. Shifts in the saturation states of carbonate, sulfate, and sulfide minerals and most of the observed changes in water chemistry in the barrier and down-gradient aquifer can be attributed, either directly or indirectly, to bacterially mediated sulfate reduction.
1999. Vol. 33, no 16, 2793-2799 p.