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Keywords:

  • biogeophysics;
  • electrode potential;
  • self potential;
  • bioremediation;
  • galvanic cell

[1] The inability to track the products of subsurface microbial activity during stimulated bioremediation has limited its implementation. We used spatiotemporal changes in electrodic potentials (EP) to track the onset and persistence of stimulated sulfate-reducing bacteria in a uranium-contaminated aquifer undergoing acetate amendment. Following acetate injection, anomalous voltages approaching −900 mV were measured between copper electrodes within the aquifer sediments and a single reference electrode at the ground surface. Onset of EP anomalies correlated in time with both the accumulation of dissolved sulfide and the removal of uranium from groundwater. The anomalies persisted for 45 days after halting acetate injection. Current-voltage and current-power relationships between measurement and reference electrodes exhibited a galvanic response, with a maximum power density of 10 mW/m2 during sulfate reduction. We infer that the EP anomalies resulted from electrochemical differences between geochemically reduced regions and areas having higher oxidation potential. Following the period of sulfate reduction, EP values ranged from −500 to −600 mV and were associated with elevated concentrations of ferrous iron. Within 10 days of the voltage decrease, uranium concentrations rebounded from 0.2 to 0.8 μM, a level still below the background value of 1.5 μM. These findings demonstrate that EP measurements provide an inexpensive and minimally invasive means for monitoring the products of stimulated microbial activity within aquifer sediments and are capable of verifying maintenance of redox conditions favorable for the stability of bioreduced contaminants, such as uranium.