NMBS

Bug Teacher

Description of Various Treatment Methods: Both Active and Passive

Through the years, many treatments have been developed for AMD remediation and currently there are a number of organized efforts in Pennsylvania using both active and passive treatment methods on a watershed scale. Active treatment methods incorporate the use of mechanized procedures for the addition of alkaline materials and require constant monitoring and maintenance. Basic chemicals are used as additives to increase the pH and cause the precipitation of metals, such as Fe, Mn, and Al. The chemicals commonly used are Ca(OH)2 (hydrated lime), NaOH (caustic soda), NH3 (ammonia), CaO (pebble quicklime) and Na2CO3 (soda ash) (Robb and Robinson, 1995). ThPoison jare chemicals used on a particular site are dependent on mine drainage characteristics and site accessibility. Hydrated lime is commonly used, but is hydrophobic and requires mixing. Pebble quicklime (CaO) is utilized at sites where it is usually dissolved by a water wheel arrangement. Soda ash, in the form of briquettes, is used in remote areas with low flows and low acidity. Caustic soda is also used in remote areas with low flows. Liquid caustic soda is capable of treating high acidity and high Mn because it raises the pH quickly, but it is expensive and dangerous to handle. Another potentially dangerous chemical used less frequently is ammonia. It must be handled carefully and is stored as a liquid. Ammonia can raise the pH above 9.2, but may have direct negative impacts on the biota of the receiving streams (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995).

Other active treatment methods include dissolved air flotation and ion exchange devices, flocculants, coagulants, and oxidants (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995). Active methods are Cash in handsuccessful, but expensive. It is not uncommon for water treatment costs to exceed $200,000 per year at AMD sites using active treatment. Another concern is the large volume of sludge produced from the precipitation of metals. Disposal costs for the sludge add to the cost of chemical treatment. Active methods may also cause environmental damage because potentially harmful chemicals are used. The high cost and possible side effects of active treatment can be avoided by the use of passive treatment systems.

Passive treatment systems, which require only limited maintenance, are the alternative approach to active treatment methods. They require no input of manufactured chemicals and have a lower operation and maintenance cost. A downside is that they do require longer retention times and larger treatment areas (Hedin et al., 1994).   Passive treatment systems were first designed after it was observed that natural wetland systems in the path of AMD had some positive effects. The first passive systems described were natural Sphagnum wetlands that were improving AMD as discharges flowed through them. The first constructed wetlands were small and planted with Typha latifolia. They were designed to encourage oxidation processes to precipitate unwanted metals and in turn increase the pH (Robb and Robinson, 1995). Constructed wetlands function by precipitating metal hydroxides, forming metal sulfides, and adsorbing small amounts of metals to the plant community (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995).

Two types of wetlands are constructed, aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic wetland systems are designed to encourage metal precipitation through oxidation processes and are therefore normally shallow, vegetated, and have surface flow predominating (Robb and Robinson, 1995). AnaerobicCatTail wetland systems require that the mine water flow through an organic layer under anaerobic conditions. The organic material most commonly used is spent mushroom compost. This organic material must contain sulfate-reducing bacteria for metal sulfide precipitates to form (Robb and Robinson, 1995).

Both vegetation and bacteria are vital to wetland treatment success. Wetland plant species have many roles in mine drainage treatment. They include substrate consolidation, metal accumulation, stimulation of microbial activity and improve the aesthetics of the site. Constructed wetlands can also provide valuable wildlife habitat, for animals such as reptiles and amphibians. Plants may also serve as a food source. Sulfate reducing bacteria, such as Desulfovibrio and Desulfotomaculum, play a major role by increasing the pH and encouraging metal precipitation. It has been shown that Desulfovibrio are most effective at a pH > 4.5 so an important aspect of anaerobic wetland treatment is maintaining the pH within the organic layer (Nawrot and Klimstra, 1990). Sulfate reducers exist in the absence of oxygen and are only found in the deeper parts of the organic layer where they are able to perform their function of sulfate reduction and alkalinity production. Treatment efficiencies of these microbial dependent wetlands show trends of seasonal variation. The decrease in treatment efficiency may be due to biological functions slowing with decreasing temperatures (Kepler, 1990).

These bacteria utilize the organic substrate as a carbon source and use sulfate as an electron acceptor in the following reactions:

SO42- + 2 CH2CHOHCOO- + 4 H+ à H2S + 2 CH3COOH + 2 H2CO3 (1)

SO42- + CH3OO- + 3 H+ à H2S + 2 H2CO3 (2)

SO42- + 2 CH3CHOHCOO- +3 H+ à 3H2S + 6 H2CO3 (3)

Sulfate reducing bacteria cannot break down complex organic substrates so they rely mainly on fermenting bacteria to provide substrates like acetate and lactate from larger organic molecules (Cork and Cusanovich, 1979). Plants aid in maintaining these bacterial communities by providing attachment sites and a continual supply of organic matter (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995).

Another type of passive treatment technology is an anoxic limestone drain (ALD) (Figure 2). The Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control in 1988 first built prototype ALDs. At the same time, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) personnel found that AMD from a coal refuse dam was being neutralized by calcium carbonate limestone in an old road buried beneath the dam (Brodie et al., 1993). In an ALD, alkalinity is produced when AMD contacts limestone in an anoxic Dozerenvironment producing bicarbonate alkalinity. ALDs consist of a shallow limestone filled trench, sealed from the atmosphere, through which the AMD is channeled. Limestone with greater than 90% CaCO3 is used to produce the greatest amount of alkalinity (Brodie et al., 1993). The limestone layer is often covered with plastic or geotextile fabric. Clay soil is then placed over the plastic or fabric followed by a covering of a heavy soil, then vegetated. The amount of limestone used is determined by the flow and loading of the AMD and desired longevity for the system. Usually, extra limestone is employed to ensure a comfortable safety factor for longevity. The use of an oxidation basin immediately after the ALD allows for precipitation of the metals (Brodie et al., 1993).

Three other criteria are followed when constructing ALDs. The first is to keep out any organic matter that may allow microorganisms to grow and coat the limestone. The second is that larger limestone (1"-6") should be used to maintain flow in case plugging occurs due to metal precipitation. Finally, oxygen should be kept out of the drain to deter metal precipitates from forming (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995). ALDs have been found to raise pH and introduce as much as 300 mg/l of bicarbonate alkalinity as shown by the following equations:

CaCO3 (s) + 2 H+ ß à Ca2+ + H2CO3- (1)

CaCO3 (s) + H2CO3- ß à Ca2+ + 2 HCO3- (2)

CaCO3 (s) + H2O ß à Ca2+ + HCO3- + OH- (3)

The rate of calcium dissolution is dependent on carbon dioxide partial pressure. Generally, the rate of calcium dissolution will increase as the partial pressure increases (Plummer et al., 1979).

As the water leaves the ALD and is exposed to oxygen, the increased pH promotes metal precipitation and the bicarbonate alkalinity neutralizes the acidity produced by metal hydrolysis (Hedin and Watzlaf, 1994). Dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration is a limiting factor in the utility of ALDs. A DO level of less than 1.0 mg/l is recommended to ensure that Fe3+ will not precipitate, coating the limestone or clogging the system (Kepler and McCleary, 1994). Al3+, however, can precipitate at a pH > 4.5 in the absence of oxygen, therefore clogging the system even in the absence of oxygen (Kepler and McCleary, 1994). ALDs are often used in combination with anaerobic constructed wetlands and vertical flow wetlands, which are also called successive alkalinity producing systems (SAPS) in the literature (Figure 3).

Vertical flow wetlands are being used on mine sites for the treatment of AMD. It is a newer technology that has shown great success. Vertical flow wetlands combine ALDs and anaerobic wetlands into one integrated system. Vertical flow is promoted through rich organic wetlandFisherman substrates followed by a limestone bed (Kepler and McCleary, 1994). Most systems are constructed as ponds lined with 65-85 cm of limestone on which approximately 65 cm of spent mushroom compost is spread. On top of the compost layer is freestanding water with a depth of 40-255 cm (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995). Perforated pipes under the limestone layer collect the flow. Various piping patterns are used from a minimal approach where only 2-3 pipes are placed lengthwise through the system, to a maximal approach where piping is placed in a grid-like pattern on 5' or 10' centers.

Vertical flow wetlands add alkalinity both through bacterial sulfate reduction and limestone dissolution. Bacterial-mediated sulfate reduction occurs in the organic layer. Bacteria oxidize organic compounds using sulfate and release hydrogen sulfide and bicarbonate. The sulfate reduction directly affects concentrations of dissolved metals by raising alkalinity and providing the conditions necessary for precipitating them as metal sulfides (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995). Metals precipitating in the system may decrease the lifespan. Flushing the wetlands may be a solution to increasing the treatment success and may aid in the prevention of clogging. Acidic conditions may also be created from reactions involving H2S, including H2S à H+ + HS- and Fe2+ + HS- à FeS + H+. When the mine water enters the organic layer containing dissolved Fe3+, dissolved O2, or precipitated Fe and Mn oxides, the H2S is oxidized and mineral acidity is affected (Hedin et al., 1994). As the H2S levels increase, the acidity decreases raising pH levels. The amount of H2S produced can be qualitatively detected by both the odor of the gas and the rich black color of the organic layer which can be an indicator of successful treatment within the wetland (Nawrot and Klimstra, 1990).

Another source of bicarbonate in vertical flow wetlands is attributed to dissolution of the limestone, CaCO3 + H+ à Ca2+ + HCO3-. The dissolution rate and concomitant alkalinity generation are greatly affected by the partial pressure of CO2. Anaerobic mine water increases CO2 partial pressures due to decomposing organic matter and precipitation of metal sulfides. The dissolved CO2 is a weak diprotic acid and continues to react with limestone, producing more Ca2+ and HCO3-. When highly acidic water contacts limestone, the first reaction is neutralization of proton acidity. The reaction increases pH and decreases metal solubility. As pH rises above 4.5, bicarbonate accumulates, decreasing the solubility of metals (Hedin et al., 1994a). It has been stated that limestone dissolution requires a 12-hour contact time for maximum alkalinity production (Kepler and McCleary, 1994). In vertical flow wetlands, through a combination of bacterial mediated sulfate reduction and limestone dissolution, alkalinity is produced. The increased pH results in the precipitation of metals when the discharged water is exposed to oxygen.

Passive treatment technology is undergoing rapid development because of the importance of developing remediation methods for AMD at a low cost. Other systems are being studied to determine if they can be successfully used as cost-efficient systems, either alone or in combination with other systems. One such system is a limestone pond. The pond is constructed on an upwelling of an AMD seep or underground discharge point. Limestone is placed on the bottom of the pond and water flows up through it. They are normally constructed with 1-3 m of water, 0.3-1.0 m of limestone, and have a retention time of 1-2 days. The drainage requires a low DO, and should contain minimal Fe3+ and Al3+, so clogging does not occur (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995).

Another technique involves the use of open limestone channels. They add alkalinity to acidic water in open channels or ditches lined with limestone. The channel should contain a slope greater than 20% to maintain flow velocities that keep precipitates in suspension (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995). Direct addition of limestone sand to streams is another technique being used. The sand is placed in the headwaters of a stream and during high flows the sand moves downstream and mixes with natural sediments. No harmful effects have been seen. An increase in pH and calcium levels have been observed along with a decrease in toxic aluminum species. A careful selection of particle size, purity and mass of the limestone is important for treatment success (Downey et al., 1994).

Diversion wells have been used in Scandinavia to treat small acidic streams since the late 1970’s (Sverdrup, 1983). The first full-sized wells were implemented in Sweden in 1980 and were first used in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania in 1986. Diversion wells are constructed from a cylinder or vertical tank made of either concrete or metal. They are 1.5-1.8 m in diameter, 2.0-2.5 m deep and filled with limestone. They contain a large pipe that extends vertically down the center of the well. Water is fed from the stream into the pipe that exits near the bottom through a nozzle. Water then flows up through the limestone, fluidizing it. Grinding and dissolution of the limestone occurs creating alkalinity. Due to the high pressure created within the wells, floc is removed at a consistent rate, so limestone coating is not a concern. Diversion wells are not entirely passive in that limestone must be added on a monthly basis and sometimes even daily. Their success is well documented, and they are currently being studied in the Babbs Creek Watershed, Tioga County in northern Pennsylvania. They work best where metal concentrations are low since there are no settling ponds employed.

bugsBioremediation is another passive treatment technique being used. Seeded microbes are used to convert metals to their less harmful species. Metal oxidation and precipitation are promoted through hydroxide formation, as is metal reduction and precipitation through sulfide formation. One example is the use of metal oxidizing beds for the treatment of both Mn and Fe (Skousen and Ziemkiewicz, 1995). Mn is difficult to remove because of the high pH required to precipitate it (> 9.0) and competition with Fe precipitation when Fe is present in high concentration. Researchers in Maryland have established a combination of microbes that have been shown to precipitate Mn to effluent standards. These beds have been in use for approximately 4 years, with the first being constructed in Pennsylvania in 1994 (Hellier, Dr. William, personal communication).

Copyright © 2005 New Miles of Blue Stream All rights reserved.