Bioremediation of Acidic and Metalliferous Drainage (AMD) through organic carbon amendment by municipal sewage and green waste

Document Type

Journal Article






Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management




Mccullough, C. D., & Lund, M. A. (2011). Bioremediation of Acidic and Metalliferous Drainage (AMD) through organic carbon amendment by municipal sewage and green waste. Journal of Environmental Management, 92(10), 2419-2426. Available here


Pit lakes (abandoned flooded mine pits) represent a potentially valuable water resource in hot arid regions. However, pit lake water is often characterised by low pH with high dissolved metal concentrations resulting from Acidic and Metalliferous Drainage (AMD). Addition of organic matter to pit lakes to enhance microbial sulphate reduction is a potential cost effective remediation strategy. However, cost and availability of suitable organic substrates are often limiting. Nevertheless, large quantities of sewage and green waste (organic garden waste) are often available at mine sites from nearby service towns. We treated AMD pit lake water (pH 2.4) from tropical, North Queensland, Australia, with primarytreated sewage sludge, green waste, and a mixture of sewage and green waste (1:1) in a controlled microcosm experiment (4.5 L). Treatments were assessed at two different rates of organic loading of 16:1 and 32:1 pit water:organic matter by mass. Combined green waste and sewage treatment was the optimal treatment with water pH increased to 5.5 in only 145 days with decreases of dissolved metal concentrations. Results indicated that green waste was a key component in the pH increase and concomitant heavy metal removal.Water quality remediation was primarily due to microbially-mediated sulphate reduction. The net result of this process was removal of sulphate and metal solutes to sediment mainly as monosulfides. During the treatment process NH3 and H2S gases were produced, albeit at below concentrations of concern. Total coliforms were abundant in all green waste-treatments, however, faecal coliforms were absent from all treatments. This study demonstrates addition of low-grade organic materials has promise for bioremediation of acidic waters and warrants further experimental investigation into feasibility at higher scales of application such as pit lakes.



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