Development of a fluidised-bed bioreactor system for the treatment of acid mine drainage, using sulphate reducing bacteria

Nakhooda, Muhammad
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Dissimilatory sulphate reduction, brought about by the action of sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB) was used in the treatment of acid mine drainage (AMD) in a fluidised bed bioreactor. Biologically produced hydrogen sulphide and bicarbonate ions, by SRB, facilitated the precipitation of heavy metals and the generation of alkalinity in the synthetic acid mine water, respectively. The SRB that had been selected were able to utilize acetate as the sole carbon source and were capable of growing in the bioreactors at low pHs, facilitating an increase in the influent pH from 2.75-7.0 to 5.4-7.8, after a 24-hour hydraulic retention time (HRT). The precipitation efficiencies for Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, Cr and Al after a HRT of 24 h as metal sulphides ranged between 84- 99% for influent pH values of between 4 and 7, and above 54% for influent pH values between 2.75 and 4. Microbial metabolic activity decreased with decreasing influent pH. This was inferred from the decreasing differences in chemical oxygen demand (COD) depletion rate over a 24 h HRT, as influent acidity levels approached pH 2.75. Molecular studies, using PCR-DGGE analysis on the microbial consortium in the bioreactor, revealed the presence of at least 8 different bacterial species in the consortium. Attempts at sequencing these bands yielded inconclusive results, with the bands showing sequence homology to a large number of previously uncultured and undescribed bacteria. Scanning electron microscopy confirmed the presence of bacteria of different morphology, as well as the presence of biofilms, which account for the heavy metal and low pH tolerances that the bacteria sustained.
fluidised bed, acid mine drainage, AMD, sulphate reducing bacteria, SRB