Characterization and microbial utilization of dissolved lipid organic fraction in arsenic impacted aquifers (India).

D. Ghosh, Joyanto Routh, Punyasloke Bhadury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The coupled role of organic matter (OM) and microbial activity is widely acknowledged in arsenic (As) biogeochemical cycling in sedimentary environments. However, little is known about OM characteristics particularly the dissolved fraction in the Bengal Delta Plain aquifers – one of the worst As impacted regions in the world. Ongoing investigations in As-rich aquifers in Nadia district (West Bengal, India) indicate presence of arsenite {As(III)} oxidizing bacterial communities in the Grey Sand Aquifers (GSA), but absent in Brown Sand Aquifers (BSA). In this study, we investigate the key differences in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) characteristics and its relationship with differences in elemental concentrations, distribution of biomarkers, and utilization of DOC by in situ microbial communities in BSA and GSA. We demonstrate a new approach using ENVI™ C-18 DSK discs to pre-concentrate DOC from large volumes of water, and further extract the OM and separate it into different lipid fractions using the solid phase extraction technique. The aquifers show marked heterogeneity in terms of their DOC characteristics and elemental profiles irrespective of their grey or brown color. DOC indicates variable inputs of terrestrial derived OM sources, and OM derived from decomposition and/or microbial cellular components. DOC in the aquifers consist of predominantly n-alkanoic acids (∼80%) followed by n-alkanes and n-alcohols. The GSAs indicate high iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) concentrations, and presence of mature petroleum derived hydrocarbons in DOC. BSA has comparatively lower concentrations of Fe and Mn, and shows absence of mature hydrocarbons in DOC. Experiments in presence of indigenous bacteria from groundwater with DOC lipid extracts as the sole carbon source indicate higher growth in the GSA samples implying preferential use of DOC. The potential availability of DOC in these aquifers can influence the community composition of indigenous heterotrophic microbial flora, which in turn can affect elemental cycles including that of As.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-233
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Arsenic
  • Aquifers
  • DOC
  • Microbes
  • Aquatic biomarkers


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