Laboratory spectral induced polarisation signatures associated with iron and manganese oxide dissolution because of anaerobic degradation

Perrine M. Fernandez, Andrew Binley, Esther Bloem, Helen K. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Degradation of organic chemicals in natural soils depends on oxidation-reduction conditions. To protect our groundwater resources we need to understand the degradation processes under anaerobic conditions. Available iron and manganese oxides are used as electron acceptors for anaerobic degradation and are reduced to the dissolved form of metallic cations in pore water. To monitor this process is a challenge, because anaerobic conditions are difficult to sample directly without introducing oxygen. A few studies have shown an impact of iron reduction on spectral induced polarisation (SIP) signature, often associated with bacterial growth. Our objective is to study the impact of iron and manganese oxide dissolution, caused by degradation of an organic compound, with spectral induced polarisation signatures. Twenty-six vertical columns (30 cm high, inner diameter 4.6 cm) were filled with a sand rich in oxides (manganese and iron) with a static water table in the middle. In half of the columns, a 2 cm high contaminated layer was installed just above the water table. As the contaminant degrades, the initial oxygen is consumed and anaerobic conditions form Every three days over a period of one month, spectral induced polarisation (twenty frequencies between 5mHz and 10 kHz) data were collected on six columns: three contaminated replicates and three control replicates. Chemical analysis was done on twenty columns assigned for destructive water sampling, ten contaminated columns and ten control. The results show an increase of the real conductivity associated with the degradation processes, independent of frequency. Compared with the pore water electrical conductivity in the saturated zone, the real conductivity measurement revealed the formation of surface conductivity before iron was released in the pore water. In parallel, we also observed an evolution of the imaginary conductivity in both saturated and unsaturated zones at frequencies below 1 Hz. Overall, the anaerobic reduction of iron and manganese oxide during the organic degradation increased both the conductive and polarisation component of the complex conductivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Degradation
  • Induced polarisation
  • Organic contaminant
  • Redox
  • Replicates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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