A preliminary study to design a floating treatment wetland for remediating acid mine drainage-impacted water using vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides)

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Department of Biological Sciences


© 2017, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany. Acid mine drainage (AMD) is extremely acidic, sulfate-rich effluent from abandoned or active mine sites that also contain elevated levels of heavy metals. Untreated AMD can contaminate surface and groundwater and pose severe ecological risk. Both active and passive methods have been developed for AMD treatment consisting of abiotic and biological techniques. Abiotic techniques are expensive and can create large amounts of secondary wastes. Passive biological treatment mainly consists of aerobic or anaerobic constructed wetlands. While aerobic wetlands are economical, they are not effective if the pH of the AMD is < 5. Anaerobic wetlands use organic-rich substrates to provide carbon source to iron- and sulfate-reducing bacteria. The efficiency of these systems declines overtime and requires continuous maintenance. Our objective is to develop an alternative, low-cost, and sustainable floating wetland treatment (FWT) system for AMD for the abandoned Tab-Simco coal mining site in Illinois using vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides). Tab-Simco AMD is highly acidic, with mean pH value of 2.64, and contains high levels of sulfate and metals. A greenhouse study was performed for a 30-day period in order to screen and optimize the necessary parameters to design a FWT system. Water quality and plant growth parameters were continuously monitored. Results show significant SO42− removal, resulting in increased pH, particularly at higher planting densities. Vetiver also helped in metal removal; high amounts of Fe, Zn, and Cu were removed, with relatively lower amounts of Pb, Al, and Ni. Iron plaque formation on the root was observed, which increased metal stabilization in root and lowered root to shoot metal translocation. Vetiver was tolerant of AMD, showing minimal change in biomass and plant growth. Results obtained are encouraging, and a large scale mesocosm study is now in progress, as the next step to develop the vetiver-based system for AMD treatment.

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Environmental Science and Pollution Research