Yan-Feng Zhuang, Maggie L. White, Claire I. Fialips
Laboratory experiments have shown that reducing iron in smectites promotes the degradation of various redox sensitive organics, including nitroaromatics and chlorinated compounds. Fe-bearing smectites have however never been used in the design of permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) for groundwater remediation. One basic requirement when designing PRBs is to keep their permeability equal to or higher than that of the surrounding aquifer materials to avoid affecting groundwater flow. Smectite clays are very low permeability materials and, when physically mixed with permeable materials, such as sand, clay particles can migrate and clog up pores, resulting in a progressive loss in permeability. In this study, we are developing a novel Fe-bearing clay-material suitable for permeable water treatment systems, including PRBs. Fe-smectite particles are tightly attached to the surface of sand grains using polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). To identify optimum procedures, we are studying the relationships between the size and texture of the sand grains, the clay/PVA and clay/sand ratio, the quality and extent of clay coverage, the stability of the clay-coated sand to changes in pH and redox conditions, and its hydraulic properties before and after iron reduction. The best clay coatings have been obtained using the most angular sands with rough surfaces and medium grain sizes (0.3-0.6mm). An optimum coating of 61.5 mg clay/g sand was obtained using the nontronite Nau- 2. The clay-coated sand is stable when pH is below 7 (no detachment of the clay particles). For pH higher than 7, a maximum of 14% of the clay-coating is detaching when the sample is not disturbed, and 28% if shaken. XRD analyses of the clay-coated sand also show that the coated smectite retains its swelling properties (d-spacing at 17.1Å after ethylene glycol treatment). The clay-coated sand is also stable to changes in redox conditions, with less than 15% detachment after 4h of treatment with sodium dithionite at 25°C. The coated clay is reducible, with a maximum reduction level of 83% (Fe(II)/Fe total). The hydraulic properties of the clay-coated sand are suitable for use in permeable systems. The effect of the reduced clay-coated sand on the degradation of redox-sensitive organics will be tested using nitrobenzene.