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Development of modified flyash as a permeable reactive barrier medium for a former manufactured gas plant site, Northern Ireland

Doherty, R and Phillips, D H and McGeough, K L and Walsh, K P and Kalin, R M (2006) Development of modified flyash as a permeable reactive barrier medium for a former manufactured gas plant site, Northern Ireland. Environmental Geology, 50 (1). pp. 37-46. ISSN 0943-0105

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Abstract

A sequential biological permeable reactive barrier (PRB) was determined to be the best option for remediating groundwater that has become contaminated with a wide range of organic contaminants (i.e., benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and polyaromatic hydrocarbons), heavy metals (i.e., lead and arsenic), and cyanide at a former manufactured gas plant after 150 years of operation in Portadown, Northern Ireland. The objective of this study was to develop a modified flyash that could be used in the initial cell within a sequential biological PRB to filter complex contaminated groundwater containing ammonium. Flyash modified with lime (CaOH) and alum was subjected to a series of batch tests which investigated the modified cation exchange capacity (CEC) and rate of removal of anions and cations from the solution. These tests showed that a high flyash composition medium (80%) could remove 8.65 mol of ammonium contaminant for every kilogram of medium. The modified CEC procedure ruled out the possibility of cation exchange as the major removal mechanism. The medium could also adsorb anions as well as cations (i.e., Pb and Cr), but not with the same capacity. The initial mechanism for Pb and Cr removal is probably precipitation. This is followed by sorption, which is possibly the only mechanism for the removal of dichromate anions. Scanning electron microscopic analysis revealed very small (<1 μm) cubic highly crystalline precipitates on the flyash, although this new crystalline zeolite growth did not occur rapidly enough to enable productive zeolite formation. Surface area measurements showed that biofilm growth on the medium could be a major factor in the comparative reduction of surface area between real and synthetic contaminant groundwaters. The modified flyash was found to be a highly sorptive granular material that did not inhibit microbiological activity, however, leaching tests revealed that the medium would fail as a long-term barrier material.