The relative importance of abiotic and biotic transformation of carbon tetrachloride in anaerobic soils and sediments

H. Shao, Elizabeth C. Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The relative contributions of abiotic and microbial processes and the role of dissolved species in the reductive dechlorination of carbon tetrachloride (CT) by natural soils and sediments were investigated. Microcosms were constructed using soils or sediments and site water from three locations, and then amended with electron acceptors and/or donors to stimulate the growth of iron- and sulfate-reducing bacteria and to promote the formation of minerals that can react with CT. Before spiking with CT, half the replicate microcosms were sterilized in order to measure the rates of abiotic CT transformation without any direct contribution from microbial dechlorination. Abiotic reaction rates were significantly greater than microbial rates for a range of initial CT concentrations, and for both iron- and sulfate-reducing conditions. In most cases, abiotic reaction rates were indistinguishable from total reaction rates (abiotic plus microbial), indicating a negligible microbial contribution to CT transformation. While in most microcosms the soil/sediment acted as the abiotic reductant, under certain conditions the supernatant was more reactive with CT than was the solid phase. For these conditions, we propose that the reactive species in the supernatant consisted of aqueous natural organic matter that under went reduction or other transformation by S (-II) generated by sulfate-reducing bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-469
Number of pages15
JournalSoil and Sediment Contamination
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Abiotic transformation
  • Biodegradation
  • Carbon tetrachloride
  • Natural attenuation
  • Reductive dechlorination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Soil Science
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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