Microbial Ecology

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 535–542 | Cite as

Changes in Organic Matter Biodegradability Influencing Sulfate Reduction in an Aquifer Contaminated by Landfill Leachate

  • Steve H. HarrisJr.
  • Jonathan D. Istok
  • Joseph M. SuflitaEmail author


In situ experiments were conducted to measure sulfate reduction rates and identify rate-limiting factors in a shallow, alluvial aquifer contaminated with municipal landfill leachate. Single-well, push–pull tests conducted in a well adjacent to the landfill with >8 mM dissolved organic carbon (DOC) exhibited a sulfate reduction rate of 3.2 μmol SO4 −2 (L sediment)−1 day−1, a value in close agreement with laboratory-derived estimates. Identical tests conducted in wells located 90 m downgradient where DOC levels remained high (>3 mM) showed no detectable sulfate consumption, and laboratory assays confirmed this observation. However, the rates of sulfate reduction in sediment samples obtained from this site were three times larger when they were amended with filter-sterilized groundwater from the upgradient location. The effect of various amendments on sulfate reduction rates was further examined in laboratory incubations using sediment collected from the downgradient site amended with 35S sulfate. Unamended sediments showed only weak conversion of the tracer to 35S sulfide (5 to 7 cpm/cm2), whereas the addition of Desulfovibrio cells increased 35S sulfide production to 44 cpm/cm2. However, the application of heat-killed Desulfovibrio had a similar stimulatory effect, as did a lactate amendment. Collectively, these findings indicate that the lack of measurable sulfate reduction at the downgradient site was not due to the absence of the necessary metabolic potential, the presence of lower sulfate concentration, or the quantity of electron donor, but by its biodegradability. The findings also indicate that field bioaugmentation attempts should be interpreted with caution.


Sulfate Reduction Landfill Leachate Desulfovibrio Sulfate Reduction Rate Pull Test 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steve H. HarrisJr.
    • 1
  • Jonathan D. Istok
    • 2
  • Joseph M. Suflita
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Botany and Microbiology, Institute for Energy and the EnvironmentUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental EngineeringOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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