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Microbially Mediated Clinoptilolite Regeneration in a Multifunctional Permeable Reactive Barrier Used to Remove Ammonium from Landfill Leachate Contamination: Laboratory Column Evaluation

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journal contribution
posted on 01.05.2010, 00:00 by Thomas Van Nooten, Ludo Diels, Leen Bastiaens
This study focuses on multifunctional permeable reactive barrier (multibarrier) technology, combining microbial degradation and abiotic ion exchange processes for removal of ammonium from landfill leachate contamination. The sequential multibarrier concept relies on the use of a clinoptilolite-filled buffer compartment to ensure a robust ammonium removal in case of temporary insufficient microbial activities. An innovative strategy was developed to allow in situ clinoptilolite regeneration. Laboratory-scale clinoptilolite-filled columns were first saturated with ammonium, using real landfill leachate as well as synthetic leachates as feed media. Other inorganic metal cations, typically present in landfill leachate, had a detrimental influence on the ammonium removal capacity by competing for clinoptilolite exchange sites. On the other hand, the metals had a highly favorable impact on regeneration of the saturated material. Feeding the columns with leachate deprived from ammonium (e.g., by microbial nitrification in an upgradient compartment), resulted in a complete release of the previously sorbed ammonium from the clinoptilolite, due to exchange with metal cations present in the leachate. The released ammonium is then available for microbial consumption in a downgradient compartment. The regeneration process resulted in a slightly increased ammonium exchange capacity afterward. The described strategy throws a new light on sustainable use of sorption materials for in situ groundwater remediation, by avoiding the need for material replacement and the use of external chemical regenerants.