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Chemical Stability of Acid Rock Drainage Treatment Sludge and Implications for Sludge Management

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Environmental Geoscience, La Trobe University, Victoria 3086, Australia
Earth Systems, Suite 507, 1 Princess Street Kew, Victoria 3101, Australia
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2006, 40, 6, 1984–1990
Publication Date (Web):February 16, 2006
Copyright © 2006 American Chemical Society

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To assess the chemical stability of sludges generated by neutralizing acid rock drainage (ARD) with alkaline reagents, synthetic ARD was treated with hydrated lime (batch and high-density sludge process), limestone, and two proprietary reagents (KB-1 and Bauxsol). The amorphous metal hydroxide sludge produced was leached using deionized water, U.S. EPA methods (toxicity characteristic leaching procedure, synthetic precipitation leaching procedure), and the new strong acid leach test (SALT), which leaches the sludge with a series of sulfuric acid extractant solutions; the pH decreases by ∼1 pH unit with each test, until the final pH is ∼2. Sludges precipitated by all reagents had very similar leachabilities except for KB-1 and Bauxsol, which released more aluminum. SALT showed that lowering the pH of the leaching solution mobilized more metals from the sludges. Iron, aluminum, copper, and zinc began to leach at pH 2.5−3, ∼4.5, ∼5.5, and 6−6.5, respectively. The leachability of ARD treatment sludges is determined by the final pH of the leachate. A higher neutralization potential (e.g., a greater content of unreacted neutralizing agent) makes sludges inherently more chemically stable. Thus, when ARD or any acidic metalliferous wastewater is treated, a choice must be made between efficient reagent use and resistance to acid attack.


 Corresponding author phone:  +61 (0)3 9479 5641; fax:  +61 (0)3 9479 1272; e-mail:  [email protected]

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Images of the batch neutralization reactor (Figure S1) and HDS reactor (Figures S2 and S3), chemical composition of the reagents and sludges (Table S2), mineralogy of the reagents and sludges (Table S3), and composition of treated water (Table S1) and leachate from distilled water leach (Table S4), SPLP (Table S5), TCLP (Table S6), and SALT (Table S7). This material is available free of charge via the Internet at

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