Electrochemical study of arsenate and water reduction on iron media used for arsenic removal from potable water

Nikos Melitas, Martha Conklin, James Farrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Zerovalent iron filings have been proposed as a filter medium for removing As(III) and As(V) compounds from potable water. The removal mechanism involves complex formation of arsenite and arsenate with the iron surface and with iron oxides produced from iron corrosion. There is conflicting evidence in the literature on whether As(V) can be reduced to As(III) by iron filter media. This research uses electrochemical methods to investigate the redox reactions that occur on the surface of zerovalent iron in arsenic solutions. The effect of arsenic on the corrosion rate of zerovalent iron was investigated by analysis of Tafel diagrams for iron wire electrodes in anaerobic solutions with As(V) concentrations between 100 and 20,000 μg/L. As(V) reduction in the absence of surface oxides was investigated by analysis of chronoamperometry profiles for iron wire electrodes in solutions with As(V) concentrations ranging from 10 000 to 106 μg/L. The effect of pH on As(V) reduction was investigated by analyses of chronopotentiometry profiles for iron wire electrodes at pH values of 2, 6.5, and 11. For freely corroding iron, the presence of As(III) and As(V) decreased the iron corrosion rate by a factor of 5 as compared to that in a 3 mM CaSO4 blank electrolyte solution. The decrease in corrosion rate was independent of the arsenic concentration and was due to the blocking of cathodic sites for water reduction by arsenic compounds chemisorbed to the iron surface. The chronoamperometry and chronopotentiometry experiments showed that elevated pH and increased As(III) to As(V) ratios near the iron surface decreased the thermodynamic favorability for As(V) reduction. Therefore, reduction of As(V) occurred only at potentials that were significantly below the apparent equilibrium potentials based on bulk solution pH values and As(III) to As(V) ratios. The potentials required to reduce more than 1% of the As(V) to As(III) were below those that are obtainable in freely corroding iron media. This indicates that there will be minimal or no reduction of As(V) in iron media filters under conditions relevant to potable water treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3188-3193
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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