Iron Kinetics and Evolution of Microbial Populations in Low-pH, Ferrous Iron-Oxidizing Bioreactors

Rose M. Jones, D. Barrie Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Iron-rich, acidic wastewaters are commonplace pollutants associated with metal and coal mining. Continuous-flow bioreactors were commissioned and tested for their capacities to oxidize ferrous iron in synthetic and actual acid mine drainage waters using (initially) pure cultures of the recently described acidophilic, iron-oxidizing heterotrophic bacterium Acidithrix ferrooxidans grown in the presence of glucose and yeast extract. The bioreactors became rapidly colonized by this bacterium, which formed macroscopic streamer growths in the flowing waters. Over 97% of ferrous iron in pH 2.0-2.2 synthetic mine water was oxidized (at up to 225 mg L-1 h-1) at dilution rates (D) of 0.6 h-1. Rates of iron oxidation decreased with pH but were still significant, with influent liquors as low as pH 1.37. When fed with actual mine water, >90% of ferrous iron was oxidized at D values of 0.4 h-1, and microbial communities within the bioreactors changed over time, with Atx. ferrooxidans becoming increasingly displaced by the autotrophic iron-oxidizing acidophiles Ferrovum myxofaciens, Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans, and Leptospirillum ferrooxidans (which were all indigenous to the mine water), although this did not have a negative impact on net ferrous-iron oxidation. The results confirmed the potential of using a heterotrophic acidophile to facilitate the rapid commissioning of iron-oxidizing bioreactors and illustrated how microbial communities within them can evolve without compromising the performances of the bioreactors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8239-8245
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number15
Early online date15 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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