Hydrogen Concentrations in Sulfate-Reducing Estuarine Sediments During PCE Dehalogenation

Environ Sci Technol. 2001 Dec 15;35(24):4783-8. doi: 10.1021/es0110372.


Despite recent progress made evaluating the role of hydrogen (H2) as a key electron donor in the anaerobic remediation of chloroethenes, few studies have focused on the evaluation of hydrogen thresholds relative to reductive dehalogenation in sulfidogenic environments. Competition for hydrogen exists among microbial populations in anaerobic sediments, and direct evidence indicates that lower hydrogen thresholds are observed with more energetically favorable electron-accepting processes. This study examined aqueous hydrogen concentrations associated with sulfate reduction and perchloroethylene (PCE) dehalogenation in anoxic estuarine sediment slurry microcosms and evaluated the competition for H2-reducing equivalents within these systems. After an initial lag period of 13 days, PCE was reductively transformed to trichloroethylene (TCE). During the time of continuous PCE dehalogenation, a significantly (P < 0.05) lower hydrogen concentration (0.5 nM) was observed in the sediment slurries amended with PCE as compared to slurries without PCE (0.8 nM). Sulfate reduction to sulfide was observed in all sediment slurries, but in microcosms actively dechlorinating PCE, the amount of reducing equivalents directed to sulfate reduction was approximately half the amount in sediment slurries without PCE. These findings provide evidence that a lower hydrogen threshold exists in anoxic estuarine sediment slurries with PCE as a terminal electron acceptor as compared to sediment slurries in which sulfate reduction was the predominant electron-accepting process. Furthermore, our results utilizing the inhibitor molybdate indicated that H2-utilizing methanogens may have the potential to effectively compete with dechlorinators for hydrogen when sulfate reduction is initially inhibited.

MeSH terms

  • Fresh Water / chemistry
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Halogens / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen / chemistry*
  • Models, Chemical
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Sulfates / chemistry*
  • Tetrachloroethylene / chemistry*
  • Trichloroethylene / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis


  • Halogens
  • Sulfates
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Hydrogen
  • Tetrachloroethylene