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A primary source of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in the Black Creek aquifer of South Carolina is carbon dioxide produced by microbially mediated oxidation of sedimentary organic matter. Groundwater chemistry data indicate, however, that the available mass of inorganic electron acceptors (oxygen, Fe(III), and sulfate) and observed methane production is inadequate to account for observed CO2 production. Although sulfate concentrations are low (approximately 0.05-0.10 mM) in aquifer water throughout the flow system, sulfate concentrations are greater in confining-bed pore water (0.4-20 mM). The distribution of culturable sulfate-reducing bacteria in these sediments suggests that this concentration gradient is maintained by greater sulfate-reducing activity in sands than in clays. Calculations based on Fick's Law indicate that possible rates of sulfate diffusion to aquifer sediments are sufficient to explain observed rates of CO2 production (about 10-5 mmoll-1 year-1), thus eliminating the apparent electron-acceptor deficit. Furthermore, concentrations of dissolved hydrogen in aquifer water are in the range characteristic of sulfate reduction (2-6 nM), which provides independent evidence that sulfate reduction is the predominant terminal electron-accepting process in this system. The observed accumulation of pyrite- and calcite-cemented sandstones at sand-clay interfaces is direct physical evidence that these processes have been continuing over the history of these sediments. ?? 1991.
Additional Publication Details
Geochemistry of dissolved inorganic carbon in a Coastal Plain aquifer. 1. Sulfate from confining beds as an oxidant in microbial CO2 production