, Volume 39, Issue 9, pp 1321-1331
Date: 29 May 2012

Biofilm establishment and heavy metal removal capacity of an indigenous mining algal-microbial consortium in a photo-rotating biological contactor

Abstract

An indigenous mining algal-microbial consortium was immobilised within a laboratory-scale photo-rotating biological contactor (PRBC) that was used to investigate the potential for heavy metal removal from acid mine drainage (AMD). The microbial consortium, dominated by Ulothrix sp., was collected from the AMD at the Sar Cheshmeh copper mine in Iran. This paper discusses the parameters required to establish an algal-microbial biofilm used for heavy metal removal, including nutrient requirements and rotational speed. The PRBC was tested using synthesised AMD with the multi-ion and acidic composition of wastewater (containing 18 elements, and with a pH of 3.5 ± 0.5), from which the microbial consortium was collected. The biofilm was successfully developed on the PRBC’s disc consortium over 60 days of batch-mode operation. The PRBC was then run continuously with a 24 h hydraulic residence time (HRT) over a ten-week period. Water analysis, performed on a weekly basis, demonstrated the ability of the algal-microbial biofilm to remove 20–50 % of the various metals in the order Cu > Ni > Mn > Zn > Sb > Se > Co > Al. These results clearly indicate the significant potential for indigenous AMD microorganisms to be exploited within a PRBC for AMD treatment.