Carbon isotope fractionation during reductive dechlorination of TCE in batch experiments with iron samples from reactive barriers
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Reductive dechlorination of trichloroethene (TCE) by zero-valent iron produces a systematic enrichment of 13C in the remaining substrate that can be described using a Rayleigh model. In this study, fractionation factors for TCE dechlorination with iron samples from two permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) were established in batch experiments. Samples included original unused iron as well as material from a barrier in Belfast after almost 4 years of operation. Despite the variety of samples, carbon isotope fractionations of TCE were remarkably similar and seemed to be independent of iron origin, reaction rate, and formation of precipitates on the iron surfaces. The average enrichment factor for all experiments was -10.1 per thousand (+/- 0.4 per thousand). These results indicate that the enrichment factor provides a powerful tool to monitor the reaction progress, and thus the performance, of an iron-reactive barrier over time. The strong fractionation observed may also serve as a tool to distinguish between insufficient residence time in the wall and a possible bypassing of the wall by the plume, which should result in an unchanged isotopic signature of the TCE. Although further work is necessary to apply this stable isotope method in the field, it has potential to serve as a unique monitoring tool for PRBs based on zero-valent iron.
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