Center for Environment and Energy Research & Studies (CEERS)

Sulphate reducing bacteria to precipitate mercury after electrokinetic soil remediation

Combined treatment with electroremediation and sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB) was tested in laboratory and pilot scale. The contaminated soil came from a chlor-alkali factory and contained about 100 mg/kg Hg. Iodide/iodine complexing agent was used to mobilize mercury. Mercury iodide complexes were moved to the anode solution using an electric field. The anode solution was then mixed with hydrogen sulphide (H2S) containing water, causing precipitation of mercury sulphide. The H2S was produced at site by a SRB reactor. Precipitation problems arising from the nature of the anode solution were expected, since this solution is highly acidic, very oxidised and may contain iodide/iodine that strongly complexes mercury and can hinder mercury sulphide precipitation. Mercury concentrations in the anode solution were up to 65.7 mg/L (field) and 15.4 mg/L (lab. scale). Reduction of mercury in the water was >93% at all times. Iodide did not hinder the process: Nonetheless, in the lab system, iodide concentration was high in the anode solution but mercury reduction was > 99.9%. The redox potential was sufficiently low for HgS precipitation during the experiments, except for a short period, when the mercury removal decreased to 94%. Sulphate reducing bacteria are shown as a viable tool for the treatment of mercury contaminated, acidic, oxidative, iodide containing water, such as that produced by electrokinetic remediation. A second SRB step or other water treatment is required to reduce the mercury concentration to environmentally acceptable levels. Redox potential is the most sensitive factor in the system.

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