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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 22 No. 1, p. 125-132
    Received: June 6, 1991

    * Corresponding author(s):
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Biodegradation of Synthetic Chelates in Subsurface Sediments from the Southeast Coastal Plain

  1. H. Bolton *,
  2. S. W. Li,
  3. D. J. Workman and
  4. D. C. Girvin
  1. Earth and Environ. Sci. Center, Pacific Northwest Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, Richland, WA 99352.



The codisposal of synthetic chelating agents [e.g., ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA), and nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA)] and radionuclides has been implicated in increased radionuclide transport in the subsurface environment. Microbial transformations of chelates in the subsurface are currently unknown, but could influence chelate persistence and thus alter the transport of radionuclides. Surface soil and subsurface sediments from five formations (36- to 376-m depth) were collected near Allendale, SC. Aerobic mineralization of 14C-labeled EDTA, DTPA, and NTA occurred in select sediments indicating that subsurface microorganisms can degrade chelates, whereas chelates may be relatively stable in strata where limited mineralization occurred. The chelates were not mineralized more rapidly or to a greater extent in the surface soil than in the subsurface sediments. The relative order of chelate persistence was EDTA > DTPA > NTA, with the maximum amount mineralized during 115 d at 15, 26, and 43%, respectively. Maximum mineralization of all three chelates did not occur in the same sediment, indicating that different microbial populations were responsible for the degradation of each chelate. Mineralization of chelates was minimal under denitrifying conditions and was reduced when additional soluble C was added. There was no relationship between chelate mineralization and the adsorption of chelates to sediments or the aqueous speciation of the chelates.

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