Environmental science and pollution research international

Investigation of biosolids degradation under flooded environments for use in underwater cover designs for mine tailing remediation.

PMID 25677786


To evaluate the potential suitability of digested sewage sludge (frequently termed biosolids) for use as underwater cover material for mine waste tailings, the degradability of biosolids at 20 - 22 °C under flooded anaerobic conditions was evaluated during incubation for 230 days. Leaching of elements from the flooded anaerobic system was also evaluated. Biosolid degradation was confirmed by the generation and accumulation of CH4 and CO2. Specifically, approximately 1.65 mmoL gas/g biosolids was generated as a result of incubation, corresponding to degradation of 7.68% of the organic matter, and the residue was stable at the end of the laboratory experiment. Under field conditions in northern Sweden, it is expected that the degradation rate will be much slower than that observed in the present study (Nason et al. Environ Earth Sci 70:30933105, 2013). Although the majority of biosolid fractions (>92%) were shown to be recalcitrant during the incubation period, long-term monitoring of further degradability of residue is necessary. The leaching results showed that most of the metals and metalloids leached from the biosolids at day 230 were below the limit value for non-hazardous waste, although Ni was the only element approximately three times higher than the limit value for inert material at the landfill site. In conclusion, biosolids have potential for use as covering material for underwater storage of tailings based on their biodegradability and leaching of elements.