IWA Publishing

Modelling biological Cr(VI) reduction in aquifer microcosm column systems


Several chrome processing facilities in South Africa release hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) into groundwater resources. Pump-and-treat remediation processes have been implemented at some of the sites but have not been successful in reducing contamination levels. The current study is aimed at developing an environmentally friendly, cost-effective and self-sustained biological method to curb the spread of chromium at the contaminated sites. An indigenous Cr(VI)-reducing mixed culture of bacteria was demonstrated to reduce high levels of Cr(VI) in laboratory samples. The effect of Cr(VI) on the removal rate was evaluated at concentrations up to 400 mg/L. Following the detailed evaluation of fundamental processes for biological Cr(VI) reduction, a predictive model for Cr(VI) breakthrough through aquifer microcosm reactors was developed. The reaction rate in batch followed non-competitive rate kinetics with a Cr(VI) inhibition threshold concentration of approximately 99 mg/L. This study evaluates the application of the kinetic parameters determined in the batch reactors to the continuous flow process. The model developed from advection–reaction rate kinetics in a porous media fitted best the effluent Cr(VI) concentration. The model was also used to elucidate the logistic nature of biomass growth in the reactor systems.

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