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Anaerobic arsenite oxidation with an electrode serving as the sole electron acceptor: a novel approach to the bioremediation of arsenic-polluted groundwater

Arsenic contamination of soil and groundwater is a serious problem worldwide. Here we show that anaerobic oxidation of As(III) to As(V), a form which is more extensively and stably adsorbed onto metal-oxides, can be achieved by using a polarized (+497 mV vs. SHE) graphite anode serving as terminal electron acceptor in the microbial metabolism. The characterization of the microbial populations at the electrode, by using in situ detection methods, revealed the predominance of gammaproteobacteria. In principle, the proposed bioelectrochemical oxidation process would make it possible to provide As(III)-oxidizing microorganisms with a virtually unlimited, low-cost and low-maintenance electron acceptor as well as with a physical support for microbial attachment.

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