Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 36, pp 35883–35894 | Cite as

Fractionation and leachability of Fe, Zn, Cu and Ni in the sludge from a sulphate-reducing bioreactor treating metal-bearing wastewater

  • Pavlina KousiEmail author
  • Emmanouella Remoundaki
  • Artin Hatzikioseyian
  • Vassiliki Korkovelou
  • Marios Tsezos
Sustainable Waste Management


This work presents and discusses experimental results on the characterisation and metal leaching potential of a biogenic, metal-rich sulphidic sludge, generated in a sulphate-reducing bioreactor, operated to treat acidic synthetic solutions bearing Fe, Zn, Ni and Cu. The sustainability of the metal removal bioprocess strongly depends on the fate of the sludge. To propose appropriate management practices, a detailed characterisation of the sludge is necessary. The granulometry, chemical composition and mineralogy of the sludge were initially determined. The mobility of the metals was assessed via a modified Tessier experimental procedure. The leachability of the sludge metal content was determined via a standard compliance method (EN 12457-2) and experiments designed to evaluate the effect of pH and time on metal leaching from the sludge. The sludge metal content sums up to 69.5% dw, namely iron (14.8%), zinc (18.7%), nickel (17.7%) and copper (18.2%) and, based on the criteria set by European Union, the sludge is characterised as hazardous and inappropriate for landfilling without any pretreatment. The sludge consists mainly of very fine poorly crystalline aggregates of Fe, Zn, Cu and Ni sulphides. The fine grain size, the poorly crystalline structure and the oxidation of sulphide upon exposure to water/air render the high metal content of the sludge recoverable.


Sulphate-reducing bioreactor Sulphidic sludge Metal fractionation Water/air exposure Leaching Sludge management 



The authors would like to express their gratitude to the School of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering (NTUA, Greece) and the Laboratory of Metallurgy (NTUA, Greece) for facilitating access to all the analytical instrumentation required for the completion of the present work. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. Part of the experimental work discussed herein was performed in the context of VK’s M.Sc. thesis (in Greek).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Environmental Science and Engineering, School of Mining and Metallurgical EngineeringNational Technical University of AthensZografouGreece

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