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COMPOST-FREE BIOREACTOR TREATMENT OF ACID ROCK DRAINAGE - TECHNOLOGY CAPSULE
TETRA TECH EM INC. COMPOST-FREE BIOREACTOR TREATMENT OF ACID ROCK DRAINAGE - TECHNOLOGY CAPSULE. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/540/R-06/009a, 2006.
As part of the Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation (SITE) program, an evaluation of the compost-free bioreactor treatment of acid rock drainage (ARD) from the Aspen Seep was conducted at the Leviathan Mine Superfund site located in a remote, high altitude area of Alpine County, California. The evaluation was performed by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL), in cooperation with EPA Region IX, the state of California, and Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), and the University of Nevada-Reno (UNR). The primary target metals of concern in the ARD include aluminum, copper, iron, and nickel; secondary target metals include selenium and zinc.
Drs. Glenn Miller and Tim Tsukamoto of the UNR have developed a compost-free bioreactor technology in which sulfate-reducing bacteria are nurtured to generate sulfides which scavenge dissolved metals to form metal sulfide precipitates. Unlike compost bioreactors, this technology uses a liquid carbon source (ethanol) and a rock matrix rather than a compost or wood chip matrix which is consumed by bacteria and collapses over time. The benefits include better control of biological activity and improved hydraulic conductivity and precipitate flushing.
Evaluation of the compost-free bioreactor technology occurred between November 2003 and July 2005. The treatment system neutralized acidity and precipitated metal sulfides from ARD at flows up to 24 gallons per minute (gpm) on a year-round basis. Multiple sampling events were conducted during both gravity flow and recirculation modes of operation. During each sampling event, EPA collected chemical data from the system influent and effluent streams and documented metals removal and reduction in acidity between system components. Operational information pertinent to the evaluation of the treatment system was also recorded. The treatment system was evaluated based on removal efficiencies for primary and secondary target metals, on
a comparison of effluent concentrations to EPA interim
(pre-risk assessment and record of decision) discharge standards, and on the characteristics of and disposal requirements for the resulting metals-enriched solid wastes. Removal efficiencies of individual unit operations were also evaluated.
The compost-free bioreactor treatment system was shown to be extremely effective at neutralizing acidity and reducing the concentrations of the 4 of the 5 target metals to below EPA interim discharge standards. Pilot testing to determine optimal sodium hydroxide addition resulted in exceedance of discharge standards for iron. However, after base optimization during gravity flow operations effluent iron concentrations met discharge standards. Iron also exceeded discharge standards during recirculation operations when base addition was stopped due to equipment failure or lack of adequate base supply. Although the influent concentrations for the primary target metals were up to 580 fold above the EPA interim discharge standards, the treatment system was successful in reducing the concentrations of the primary target metals in the ARD to between 1 and 43 fold below the discharge standards. Removal efficiencies for the 5 primary target metals exceeded 85 percent; sulfate ion was reduced by 17 percent. The metal sulfide precipitates generated by this technology were not found to be hazardous or pose a threat to water quality and could be used as a soil amendment for site reclamation.
Based on the success of bioreactor treatment at the Leviathan Mine site, ARCO will continue to use this technology to treat ARD at the Aspen Seep.
amendments emphasize the achievement of long-term