Environmental Technologies for Contaminated Solids, Soils and Sediments
1st cohort

Pimluck Kijjanapanich

Sulfate Reduction for Remediation of Gypsiferous Soils and Solid Wastes


Solid wastes containing sulfate, such as construction and demolition debris (CDD), are an important source of pollution, which can create a lot of environmental problems. It is suggested that these wastes have to be separated from other wastes, especially organic waste, and place it in a specific area of the landfill. This results in the rapid rise of the disposal costs of these gypsum wastes. Although these wastes can be reused as soil amendment or to make building materials, a concern has been raised by regulators regarding the chemical characteristics of the material and the potential risks to human health and the environment due to CDD containing heavy metals and a high sulfate content.

Soils containing gypsum, namely gypsiferous soils, also have several problems during agricultural development such as low water retention capacity, shallow depth to a hardpan and vertical crusting. In some mining areas, gypsiferous soil problems occur, coupled with acid mine drainage (AMD) problems which cause a significant environmental threat. Reduction of the sulfate content of these wastes and soils is an option to overcome the above mentioned problems. This study aimed to develop sulfate removal systems to reduce the sulfate content of CDD and gypsiferous soils in order to decrease the amount of solid wastes as well as to improve the quality of wastes and soils for recycling purposes or agricultural applications.

The treatment concept leaches the gypsum contained in the CDD by water in a leaching step. The sulfate containing leachate is further treated in biotic or abiotic systems. Biological sulfate reduction systems used in this research were the Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) reactor, Inverse Fluidized Bed (IFB) Reactor and Gas Lift Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor (GL-AnMBR). The highest sulfate removal efficiency achieved from these three systems ranges from 75 to 95%. The treated water from the bioreactor can then be reused in the leaching column. Chemical sulfate removal (abiotic system) is an alternative option to treat the CDD leachate. Several chemicals were tested including barium chloride, lead(II) nitrate, calcium chloride, calcium carbonate, calcium oxide, aluminium oxide and iron oxide coated sand. A sulfate removal efficiency of 99.9% was achieved with barium chloride and lead(II) nitrate.

For AMD and gypsiferous soils treatment, five types of organic substrate including bamboo chips (BC), municipal wastewater treatment sludge (MWTS), rice husk (RH), coconut husk chip (CHC) and pig farm wastewater treatment sludge (PWTS) were tested as electron donors for biological sulfate reduction treating AMD. The highest sulfate reduction efficiency (84%) was achieved when using the combination of PWTS, RH and CHC as electron donors. Then, this organic mixture was further used for treatment of the gypsiferous soils. The gypsum mine soil (overburden) was mixed with an organic mixture in different amounts including 10, 20, 30 and 40% of soil. The highest sulfate removal efficiency of 59% was achieved in the soil mixture which contained 40% organic material.

The removal of sulfide from the effluent of the biological sulfate reduction process is required as sulfide can cause several environmental impacts or be re-oxidized to sulfate if directly discharged to the environment. Electrochemical treatment is one of the alternatives for sulfur recovery from aqueous sulfide. A non-catalyzed graphite electrode was tested as electrode for the electrochemical sulfide oxidation. A high surface area of the graphite electrode is required in order to have less internal resistance as much as possible. The highest sulfide oxidation rate was achieved when using the external resistance at 30 Ω at a sulfide concentration of 250 mg L-1.