- More than 30,000 potential Superfund sites have been identified. Heavy metals are contaminants at many of these Superfund sites. The average cost of cleanup a single-typical Superfund site currently stands at $20 million, and it is expected that the cost may escalate to $50 million within the next decade. Problems have already been encountered during the inspection of sites, and available technologies have not been effective in treating all sites. Lack of innovative strategies for dealing with contaminated soils is a major obstacle to completing Superfund site cleanup. The characteristics of low molecular weight (LMW) organic acids (citric, oxalic, and succinic acids) can be utilized as an agent in soil washing and flushing to develop an innovative technology in the remediation of the soil contaminated with heavy metals.
The objective of the work was the testing of a new remediation technology involving soil flushing and washing with LMW organic acids, designed to permanently
remove heavy metals from contaminated soil at Superfund sited. Significant amounts of heavy metals (Cu, Pb, Zn) were removed and formed soluble metal-organic complexes at higher concentrations of organic ligands. At a citric concentration of 100 mM, over 70~80% of copper, lead, and zinc were mobilized and all metals extracted were complexed with citrate ions as various forms. Therefore, the use of citric acid to remove heavy metals from contaminated soils would be less costly that using EDTA. The subsequent pH elevation by hydrated lime, Ca(OH)₂, causes the decomplexation of Pb-citrate and initiates precipitation of lead hydroxide. Results showed that slightly alkaline conditions (pH 8.5), which are much lower than that used with EDTA, are needed for substantial precipitative removal of the lead.
Increasing calcium nitrate concentration significantly improved the Pb(II) desorption via a cation exchange reaction, That is, the time required to recover lead from the contaminated soil during a soil column experiment was greatly reduced as the concentration of calcium nitrate in the influent was increased. Varying influent pH had little effort on the rate of lead mobilization in the soil columns due to the buffering capacity of the soil, which maintained the effluent pH at the soil pH. The effluent flow rate had no effect on mobilizing Pb(II) from the soil.
A higher concentration of citric acid resulted in a much faster rate of lead mobilization from the contaminated soil. Differences in lead desorption rates between influent pHs of 4.5 and 6 were significantly high. However, lead desorption curves for citrate solution at a lower pH value (pH < 4.5) were nearly identical. The flow rate of effluent has no effect at removing lead in the range of 0.1~1.0 mL/min.
Also, lead transport model was developed under the assumption of one-dimensional flow through a homogeneous porous medium. A simplified model was also developed by assuming no dispersion effect, no immobile aqueous-phase zone, and linear desorption kinetics. An analytical solution of the simplified equation was obtained by solving a partial differential equation. The computer simulations were fitted to experimental data using estimates for model parameters which were not obtainable independently in experiments. At higher concentrations and pH of the influent, this model presented here fitted well with the experimental data.