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Assessment of permeable reactive barriers alternative media for the remediation of nitrate-contaminated ground-waters.

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The increase in the contamination of ground-water (GW) with nitrates in both developing and developed countries mainly results from agricultural activities and improper sanitation systems, and is a recent phenomenon that has become a source of great health concern, particularly in regions where people rely on the ground-water as their primary water source. Due to the advantages of using Permeable Reactive Barriers (PRB) including its cost-effectiveness as well as its capability to remove or mitigate the spread of large spectrum of contaminants (including nitrates), a significant increase has been observed in the use of this subsurface treatment technology compared to other methods. However, identifying more economic and reliable reactive media to be used instead of the costly conventional PRB materials is now of key importance. Two local soils namely Berea Red Sand (BRS) and Umgeni Sand (US) were the main focus of this research. In addition to these soils, Zero Valent Iron (ZVI) was also used in this study. Through the use of batch experiments the feasibility of the nitrate reduction was investigated by five substrates including 100% ZVI, 100% BRS, 100% US, mix of 75% ZVI + 25% BRS, and mix of 50% ZVI + 50% BRS. Five concentrations of nitrate synthetic solution including 10 mg/l, 25 mg/l, 50 mg/l, 100 mg/l, and 500 mg/l were used to simulate nitrate-contaminated ground-water. All the batch experiments were performed under semi-aerobic and uncontrolled pH conditions, and only one solid/liquid ratio of 1:10 was used. The two mixes (mix of 75% ZVI + 25% BRS, and mix of 50% ZVI + 50% BRS) exhibited a nitrate removal efficiency of 100%, with all the different initial concentrations that were used with it; besides these two mixes, none of the other substrates showed this performance. 100% ZVI; however, managed complete nitrate reduction when the 10 mg/l and 25 mg/l concentrations were used. Finally, it was concluded that the benefits of using BRS in combination with other materials such as ZVI in the PRB field are promising.


Thesis (M.Sc.Eng.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2013.


Groundwater--Pollution., Permeable reactive barriers., Groundwater--Purification., Theses--Civil engineering.