Algae as an electron donor promoting sulfate reduction for the bioremediation of acid rock drainage

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14 Scopus citations


This study assessed bioremediation of acid rock drainage in simulated permeable reactive barriers (PRB) using algae, Chlorella sorokiniana, as the sole electron donor for sulfate-reducing bacteria. Lipid extracted algae (LEA), the residues of biodiesel production, were compared with whole cell algae (WCA) as an electron donor to promote sulfate-reducing activity. Inoculated columns containing anaerobic granular sludge were fed a synthetic medium containing H2SO4 and Cu2+. Sulfate, sulfide, Cu2+ and pH were monitored throughout the experiment of 123 d. Cu recovered in the column packing at the end of the experiment was evaluated using sequential extraction. Both WCA and LEA promoted 80% of sulfate removal (12.7 mg SO42- d-1) enabling near complete Cu removal (>99.5%) and alkalinity generation raising the effluent pH to 6.5. No noteworthy sulfate reduction, alkalinity formation and Cu2+ removal were observed in the endogenous control. In algae amended-columns, Cu2+ was precipitated with biogenic H2S produced by sulfate reduction. Formation of CuS was evidenced by sequential extraction and X-ray diffraction. LEA and WCA provided similar levels of electron donor based on the COD balance. The results demonstrate an innovative passive remediation system using residual algae biomass from the biodiesel industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-343
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - Nov 5 2016


  • Acid mine drainage
  • Algae waste
  • Biodiesel
  • Heavy metal
  • Permeable reactive barrier

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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