Anaerobic bioleaching of metals from waste activated sludge

R.J.W. Meulepas, G. Gonzalez-Gil, F.M. Teshager, A. Witharana, P.E. Saikaly, P.N.L. Lens
Science of The Total Environment, volume 514, pp. 60-67, (2015)

Anaerobic bioleaching of metals from waste activated sludge


Anaerobic digestion,  Metal leaching,  Waste activated sludge, Heavy metals, Bioleaching


​Heavy metal contamination of anaerobically digested waste activated sludge hampers its reuse as fertilizer or soil conditioner. Conventional methods to leach metals require aeration or the addition of leaching agents. This paper investigates whether metals can be leached from waste activated sludge during the first, acidifying stage of two-stage anaerobic digestion without the supply of leaching agents. These leaching experiments were done with waste activated sludge from the Hoek van Holland municipal wastewater treatment plant (The Netherlands), which contained 342 μg g− 1 of copper, 487 μg g− 1 of lead, 793 μg g− 1 of zinc, 27 μg g− 1 of nickel and 2.3 μg g− 1 of cadmium. During the anaerobic acidification of 3 gdry weight L− 1 waste activated sludge, 80–85% of the copper, 66–69% of the lead, 87% of the zinc, 94–99% of the nickel and 73–83% of the cadmium were leached. The first stage of two-stage anaerobic digestion can thus be optimized as an anaerobic bioleaching process and produce a treated sludge (i.e., digestate) that meets the land-use standards in The Netherlands for copper, zinc, nickel and cadmium, but not for lead.


DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.12.073


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