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Hybrid Process for Heavy Metal Removal from Wastewater Sludge

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Bioleaching processes have been demonstrated to be effective technologies in removing heavy metals from wastewater sludge, but long hydraulic retention times are typically required to operate these bioprocesses. A hybrid process (coupling biological and chemical processes) has been explored in laboratory pilot-scale experiments for heavy metals (cadmium [Cd], copper [Cu], chromium [Cr], and zinc [Zn]) removal from three types of sludge (primary sludge, secondary activated sludge, and a mixture of primary and secondary sludge). The hybrid process consisted of producing a concentrate ferric ion solution followed by chemical treatment of sludges. Ferric iron solution was produced biologically via oxidation of ferrous iron by A. ferrooxidans in a continuous-flow stirred tank (5.2 L) reactor (CSTR). Wastewater sludge filtrate (WSF) containing nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) has been used as culture media to support the growth and activity of indigenous iron-oxidizing bacteria. Results showed that total organic carbon (TOC) concentrations of the culture media in excess of 235 mg/L were found to be inhibitory to bacterial growth. The oxidation rate increased as ferrous iron concentrations ranged from 10 to 40 g Fe2+/L. The percentage of ferrous iron (Fe2+) oxidized to ferric iron (Fe3+) increased as the hydraulic retention time (HRT) increased from 12 to 48 h. Successful and complete Fe2+ oxidation was recorded at a HRT of 48 h using 10 g Fe2+/L. Subsequently, ferric ion solution produced by A. ferrooxidans in sludge filtrate was used to solubilize heavy metals contained in wastewater sludge. The best solubilization was obtained with a mixture of primary and secondary sludge, demonstrating a removal efficiency of 63, 71, 49, and 80% for Cd, Cu, Cr, and Zn, respectively.
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Keywords: Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans; bio-oxidation; bioleaching; ferric iron; ferrous iron; metal leaching; wastewater sludge

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-07-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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