Retention of immobile Se(0) in flow-through aquifer column systems during bioreduction and oxic-remobilization

Sci Total Environ. 2022 Aug 15;834:155332. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.155332. Epub 2022 Apr 20.


Selenium (Se) is a toxic contaminant with multiple anthropogenic sources, including 79Se from nuclear fission. Se mobility in the geosphere is generally governed by its oxidation state, therefore understanding Se speciation under variable redox conditions is important for the safe management of Se contaminated sites. Here, we investigate Se behavior in sediment groundwater column systems. Experiments were conducted with environmentally relevant Se concentrations, using a range of groundwater compositions, and the impact of electron-donor (i.e., biostimulation) and groundwater sulfate addition was examined over a period of 170 days. X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy and standard geochemical techniques were used to track changes in sediment associated Se concentration and speciation. Electron-donor amended systems with and without added sulfate retained up to 90% of added Se(VI)(aq), with sediment associated Se speciation dominated by trigonal Se(0) and possibly trace Se(-II); no Se colloid formation was observed. The remobilization potential of the sediment associated Se species was then tested in reoxidation and seawater intrusion perturbation experiments. In all treatments, sediment associated Se (i.e., trigonal Se(0)) was largely resistant to remobilization over the timescale of the experiments (170 days). However, in the perturbation experiments, less Se was remobilized from sulfidic sediments, suggesting that previous sulfate-reducing conditions may buffer Se against remobilization and migration.

Keywords: Biostimulation; Contaminated land; Geological disposal; Sequential extraction; XAS.

MeSH terms

  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • Groundwater* / chemistry
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Selenium* / chemistry
  • Sulfates
  • Water Pollutants, Radioactive* / chemistry


  • Sulfates
  • Water Pollutants, Radioactive
  • Selenium