Laboratory investigation of the treatment of chromium contaminated groundwater with iron-based permeable reactive barriers

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Environmental Engineering, Turkey

Approval Date: 2006




Chromium is a common groundwater pollutant originating from industrial processes such as metal plating, leather tanning and pigment manufacturing. Permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) have proven to be viable and cost-effective systems for remediation of chromium contaminated groundwater at many sites. The purpose of this research presented in this thesis is to focus on two parameters that affect the performance of PRB on chromium removal, namely the concentration of reactive media and groundwater flux by analyzing the data obtained from laboratory column studies. Laboratory scale columns packed with different amounts of iron powder and quartz sand mixtures were fed with 20 mg/l chromium influent solution under different fluxes. When chromium treatment efficiencies of the columns were compared with respect to iron powder/quartz sand ratio, the amount of iron powder was found to be an important parameter for treatment efficiency of PRBs. The formation of H2 gas and the reddish-brown precipitates throughout the column matrix were observed, suggesting the reductive precipitation reactions. SEM-EDX analysis of the iron surface after the breakthrough illustrated chromium precipitation. In addition to chromium; calcium and significant amount of iron-oxides or -hydroxides was also detected on the iron surfaces. When the same experiments were conducted at higher fluxes, an increase was observed in the treatment efficiency in the column containing 50% iron. This suggested that the precipitates may not be accumulating at higher fluxes which, in turn, create available surface area for reduction. Extraction experiments were also performed to determine the fraction of chromium that adsorbed to ironhydroxides. The analysis showed that chromium was not removed by adsorption to oxyhydroxides and that reduction is the only removal mechanism in the laboratory experiments. The observed rate of Cr(VI) removal was calculated for each reactive mixture which ranged from 48.86 hour-1 to 3804.13 hour-1. These rate constants and complete removal efficiency values were thought to be important design parameters in the field scale permeable reactive barrier applications.