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Roasting/retorting and incineration are thermal techniques and the most commonly used for treating mercury-contaminated waste. Roasting/retorting operations separate the mercury from the rest of the waste stream and condense it for recovery or removal. Because the control of mercury emissions from incinerators is difficult, alternative technologies are sought that either recycle the mercury in the wastes, separate the mercury from the organics prior to incineration of the organics, or produce a stable residue for disposal that reduces the risks attributed to the organic and mercury constituents. The treatment approach depends on the type of waste being treated, and may require the use of a series of technologies.
Mercury cannot be destroyed, so treaters have to rely on various methods to capture or recover it, depending on the mercury species present, its concentration, and the waste matrix or media involved. Selecting the appropriate treatment formula depends on the degree of organic destruction required prior to further mercury treatment, the degree of mercury speciation control required by the waste form, and other operating procedures to ensure mercury extraction. The final treatment step in non-thermal processes for mercury wastes generally involves either precipitation to produce a waste that can be retorted or immobilization prior to disposal.
Chemical oxidation is applied to elemental mercury and organomercury compounds to destroy the organics and to convert mercury to a soluble form, such as HgCl2 or HgI2, which can then be separated from the waste matrix and treated. Oxidizing reagents used in these processes include sodium hypochlorite, ozone, hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide, free chlorine (gas), and proprietary reagents.
Chemical leaching is an aqueous process that depends on the ability of a leaching solution to solubilize mercury and remove it from the waste matrix. The solubilized mercury ideally partitions to the liquid phase, which is filtered off for further treatment (e.g., precipitation, ion exchange, carbon adsorption). This process can remove inorganic forms of mercury from inorganic waste matrices, but it is less effective for removing nonreactive elemental mercury unless the leaching formula is capable of ionizing mercury to an extractable form. Acid leaching is used most commonly to remove mercury from inorganic media.
Chemical precipitation of mercury requires that the mercury be in an ionic state (e.g., Hg2+), which means that all organic content has been removed. Precipitation reagents include lye, caustic, sodium sulfide, and, to a lesser extent, soda ash, phosphate, and ferrous sulfide.
Ion exchange resins have proven useful in removing mercury from aqueous media, particularly at concentrations on the order of 1 to 10 ppb. Ion exchange applications usually treat mercuric salts, such as mercuric chlorides. In other applications of resins, the resins can be cleaned (regenerated) and reused, but Hg is not readily removed; if a selective resin is used, the adsorption process is usually irreversible and the resin must be disposed of in a hazardous waste unit.
Solidification/stabilization(S/S) processes are nondestructive methods to immobilize the hazardous constituents in a matrix while decreasing the waste surface area and permeability. Conventional S/S agents include Type 1 Portland cement, lime, and fly ash, though more innovative forms also are available. The encapsulation process temperatures may volatilize mercury, so the mercury vapor and oxide that forms must be captured and recycled in the process.
Amalgamation typically involves the mixing of elemental mercury with a powdered granular metal (typically zinc), forming a non-liquid, semi-solid matrix of elemental mercury and the metal.
Other technologies being studied or developed for mercury remediation include thermal processes that mobilize the mercury for capture as vapor, electrokinetics, and phytoremediation.
Strategies for the engineered phytoremediation of mercury and arsenic pollution
Dhankher, Om Parkash and Richard B. Meagher.
Jump to a SubsectionGeneral Overview Reports | Biological Methods | Physical/Chemical Methods | Thermal Processes | Site-Specific Information | Literature References
Analysis of Alternatives to Incineration for Mercury Wastes Containing Organics
U.S. EPA. 60 pp., 1998.
The alternatives considered include chemical oxidation, chemical leaching, chemical precipitation, and ion exchange.
Methods for treating aqueous mercury discussed in this report include activated carbon adsorption, precipitation, coagulation/co-precipitation, ion exchange, chemical reduction, membrane separation, as well as emerging technologies involving macrocycles adsorption, biological treatment, and membrane extraction.
Demonstration of New Technologies Required for the Treatment of Mixed Waste Contaminated with >260 ppm Mercury
Michael I. Morris, Irvin W. Osborne-Lee, Greg A. Hulet
ORNL/TM-2001/147, 82 pp., Jan 2002.
This report describes the results of four vendor demonstrations of new mercury cleanup technologies: Brookhaven National Laboratory offered a sulfur polymer stabilization/solidification process; Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) presented the DeHg (de-merk) stabilization process; Allied Technology Group introduced a chemical stabilization treatment; and SepraDyne-Raduce demonstrated a vacuum thermal desorption technology.
Economic and Environmental Analysis of Technologies to Treat Mercury and Dispose in a Waste Containment Facility
G.D. Kaiser, J. Skibinski, W. Toman, J. Vierow, B. Dykema, and E. Ten Siethoff.
EPA 600-R-05-157, 213 pp, Apr 2005.
This analysis considers three treatment technologies that convert elemental mercury into a stable form of mercury. The report is restricted to the treatment and disposal or long-term storage of elemental mercury and does not consider the treatment and disposal of mercury-containing wastes or radioactive mercury.
Engineering Bulletin: Technology Alternatives for Remediation of Soils Contaminated with As, Cd, Cr, Hg, and Pb
U.S. EPA, Office of Research and Development.
EPA 540-S-97-500, 21 pp., 1997.
Contact: Michael Royer, email@example.com
This paper discusses the following remediation technologies: immobilization [containment (caps, vertical barriers, horizontal barriers), solidification/stabilization (cement-based, polymer microencapsulation), and vitrification]; and separation and concentration (soil washing, pyrometallurgy, and soil flushing). Use of treatment trains is addressed also.
Innovative Approaches to Mercury Contamination in Soil
U.S. DOE and Polish Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas JCCES FY01 Annual Report.
WSRC-RP-2002-00142, Chapter VI, p. 1-32, 2002.
This report presents results of a DOE-sponsored project carried out by Florida State University and the Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas (IETU), Katowice, Poland. The IETU is evaluating several potential approaches for managing mercury contamination in soil. The technologies addressed in this manuscript include chemical/plant stabilization and volatilization.
In Situ Remediation and Stabilization Technologies for Mercury in Clay Soils
Cabrejo, Elsa (DOE Fellow), Florida International Univ.
DOE-FIU Science & Technology Workforce Development Program, Student Summer Internship Technical Report ARC-2007-D2540-032-04, 31 pp, 2010
This paper discusses innovative in situ remediation technologies for the treatment and/or stabilization of mercury-contaminated clay soil. The 4 alternatives—electrochemical remediation, in situ mercury stabilization, nanotechnology, and phytoextraction--have the common advantages of low energy requirements, low cost, no excavation, no addition of harmful chemicals, and minimal exposure of workers and the public to the contaminant during operations.
Management of Mercury Pollution in Sediments: Research, Observations, and Lessons Learned (DRAFT)
U.S. EPA, National Risk Management Research Laboratory. 87 pp, 2006
This report discusses the most common methods used for remediating contaminated sediments in relation to the chemistry of mercury and its effect on the sorption of mercury on sediment. Three detailed case studies are presented: remediation efforts at Lavaca Bay, TX; management of mercury in Onandoga Lake in Syracuse, NY; and remediation and monitoring of mercury-contaminated sediments in Lake Turingen, Sweden.
Mercury Contaminated Material Decontamination Methods: Investigation and Assessment
M.A. Ebadian, Marshall Allen, and Yong Cai.
FG21-95EW55094-02, NTIS: DE00790964, 73 pp., 2001.
Contact: M.A. Ebadian, Hemispheric Center for Environmental Technology, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33174
This report reviews technologies for removing mercury from surfaces, water, and mixed wastes (solid media). Surface methods: strippable coatings, chemical cleaning with iodine/iodide lixiviant, chemisorbing surface wipes with forager sponge and grafted cotton, and surface/pore fixation through amalgamation or stabilization. In liquids: precipitation processes (sulfide precipitation, coagulation/co-precipitation), adsorption processes (e.g., activated carbon adsorption), ion exchange, chemical reduction, membrane separation, membrane extraction, Self-Assembled Mercaptan on Mesoporous Silica (SAMMS), and graft copolymer of acrylamide onto cellulose. In solid media: separation/removal (thermal treatment processes and chemical leaching), immobilization, stabilization, and amalgamation.
Mercury Contaminated Sites: Characterization, Risk Assessment and Remediation
Ebinghaus, R.; W. Salomons; R.R Turner; L.D. de Lacerda; O. Vasiliev (eds.)
Springer, Berlin. 555 pp., 1998.
Unlike other metals, which generally are not very volatile, mercury from contaminated sites can have a significant impact on remote ecosystems via the atmospheric pathway. This book summarizes work on mercury characterization, risk assessment and remediation from Europe, Russia, and the American continent. Technology review chapters are supplemented by detailed international case studies.
Proven Technologies and Remedies Guidance: Remediation of Metals in Soil
Burger, K., P. Carpenter, M. Finch, H. Muniz-Ghazi, D. Oudiz, K. Shaddy, and J. Sotelo.
California Department of Toxic Substances Control, 420 pp, 2008
This guidance streamlines the cleanup process by (1) limiting the number of evaluated technologies to excavation/disposal and containment/capping; (2) facilitating remedy implementation; and (3) facilitating documentation and administrative processes. The focus is on commonly encountered metal contaminants: arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury. This approach is not intended to replace the evaluation of innovative and new technologies.
Recent Developments for In Situ Treatment of Metal Contaminated Soils
U.S. EPA, Technology Innovation Office.
EPA 542-R-97-004, 64 pp., 1997.
This report assists the remedy selection process by providing information on four in situ technologies for treating soil contaminated with metals: electrokinetic remediation, phytoremediation, soil flushing, and solidification/stabilization.
Recommendations to Address Technical Uncertainties in the Mitigation and Remediation of Mercury Contamination at the Y-12 Plant, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
B.B. Looney, C. Eddy-Dilek, R. Turner, G. Southworth, M. Peterson, and A. Palumbo.
WSRC-STI-2008-00212, 76 pp, 2008
In addition to general discussions of Hg fate and transport and the biochemical and biophysical mechanisms of transformation between major Hg species and MeHg, this report describes the many different approaches, both conventional and innovative, employed to address Hg contamination across the ORNL reservation, with recommendations for future work.
Remediation Control Strategies and Cost Data for an Economic Analysis of a Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load in California
Alexander Wood, U.S. Geological Survey.
U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-284, 58 pp., 2003.
Contact: Alexander Wood, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) value indicates a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards, and an allocation of that amount to the source(s) of the pollutant, such as a mine site. The purpose of the report is to illustrate the general costs associated with various remedial practices that are applicable to mercury sources in California. These costs encompass project development, environmental compliance, permit approval, cleanup approaches (including both conventional and innovative technologies), construction, and other transaction costs. Though the costs for remediation projects cited in the report are site-specific, methods for predicting costs through identification and assessment techniques are discussed.
Remediation of Mercury Contaminated Sites: A Review
Wang, J., X. Feng, C.W. Anderson, Y. Xing, and L. Shang.
Journal of Hazardous Materials 221-222:1-18(2012)
This paper presents a review of conventional and emerging techniques for the remediation of mercury-contaminated soil: stabilization/solidification, immobilization, vitrification, thermal desorption, soil washing, electro-remediation, phytostabilization, phytoextraction, phytovolatilization, and nanotechnologies. Longer abstract
Removal of Mercury from Solids Using the Potassium Iodide/Iodine Leaching Process
K.T. Klasson, L.J. Koran, Jr., D.D. Gates, P.A. Cameron.
ORNL/TM-13137, 30 pp., 1997.
Treatment Technologies for Mercury in Soil, Waste, and Water
EPA 542-R-07-003, 2007.
This report contains information on the availability, performance, and cost of eight technologies for the treatment of mercury in soil, waste, and water. It describes the theory, design, and operation of the technologies; provides information on commercial availability and use; and includes site-specific data on performance and cost, where available. This information can help managers at sites with mercury-contaminated media and generators of mercury-contaminated waste and wastewater to:
- Identify proven and effective mercury treatment technologies;
- Screen technologies based on application-specific goals, characteristics, and cost; and,
- Apply experiences from sites with similar treatment challenges.
The technologies for soil and waste that are included in the report are solidification and stabilization, soil washing and acid extraction, thermal treatment, and vitrification. Technologies for water include precipitation/coprecipitation, adsorption, membrane filtration, and biological treatment. The report also includes information on ongoing research on mercury treatment, including applications using nanotechnology, phytoremediation, air stripping, and in situ thermal desorption.
Ultralow Concentration Mercury Treatment Using Chemical Reduction and Air Stripping
B.B. Looney, M.E. Denham, K.M. Vangelas, and N.S. Bloom, Savannah River Technology Center.
WSRC-MS-2001-00388, 22 pp., 2001.
Brian Looney, email@example.com
An Overview of the Phytoremediation of Lead and Mercury
Jeanna R. Henry.
National Network of Environmental Management Studies (NNEMS) status report, 55 pp., 2000.
This report was not subject to EPA peer review or technical review. EPA makes no warranties, expressed or implied, including without limitation, warranty for completeness, accuracy, or usefulness of the information.
Phytoremediation of Toxic Metals: Using Plants to Clean Up the Environment
Ilya Raskin and Burt D. Ensley (eds.).
Wiley, New York. ISBN: 0-471-19254-6, 304 pp., 1999.
Phytoremediation Project FY00 Final Report — Task 5: Evaluation of Novel Mercury Remediation Technology
U.S. Department of Energy and Polish Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas Joint Coordinating Committee for Environmental Systems FY00 Annual Report
WSRC-TR-2001-00106, p. 143-243, 2001.
The phytoremediation project applied 0.5% granular sulfur and planted a site with meadow grass. The approach showed promise for stabilizing mercury contaminated soils in situ.
Controlling Mercury Release from Source Zones to Surface Water: Initial Results of Pilot Tests at the Y-12 National Security Complex
G.R. Southworth, S.C. Brooks, M.J. Peterson, M.A. Bogle, C.L. Miller, L. Liang, and M. Elliott.
ORNL/TM-2009/035, 47 pp, 2009
This report presents the results of pilot tests focused on remediation of waterborne mercury (Hg) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The project goal is to develop strategies and treatment technologies that reduce the concentration and loading of waterborne Hg discharges to the Upper East Fork Poplar Creek (UEFPC), thus minimizing Hg uptake by fish. The two specific studies are (1) reducing flow augmentation in UEFPC to lessen Hg mobilization from contaminated stream sediments and (2) treatment of contaminated source waters with a chemical reductant to convert dissolved Hg to a volatile form that can be removed by air stripping. Initial results suggest that a combination of reducing augmented flow volume and chemical reduction using stannous chloride will produce at least a 35% reduction in base-flow Hg loading to UEFPC, from ~8 g/d to 5 g/d.
Demonstration Results on the Effects of Mercury Speciation on the Stabilization of Wastes
I.W. Osborne-Lee, T.B. Conley, G.A. Hulet, M.I. Morris.
ORNL/TM-1999/120, 26 pp., 1999.
Evaluation of Chemically Bonded Phosphate Ceramics for Mercury Stabilization of a Mixed Synthetic Waste
S. Chattopadhyay, Battelle, Columbus, OH.
EPA 600-R-03-113, 70 pp., 2003.
Harbauer Soil Washing/Vacuum-Distillation System, Harbauer GmbH & Company KG Facility, Marktredwitz, Germany. EPA - BMBF Bilateral Site Demonstration Innovative Technology Evaluation Report
U.S. EPA Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation Program, 110 pp., 1996.
The soil washing process separates the contaminated feed soil into a coarse-grained fraction and a fine-grained fraction. Coarse soil with greater than or equal to 50 mg/kg Hg is crushed and treated in the vacuum-distillation process. Fine soil (< 2 mm) at Hg concentrations up to 5,000 mg/kg, is treated in the vacuum-distillation process, which heats the soil under a vacuum to volatilize and remove mercury. Mercury vapors removed from the vacuum-distillation unit enter a water-cooled multistep condenser unit that liquefies the vapors into elemental mercury. The treated fine soil fraction is mixed with any coarse soil fraction containing less than 50 mg/kg mercury and disposed of in a landfill.
Measurements of Mercury Released from Solidified/Stabilized Waste Forms, FY 2002
ORNL/TM-2002/283, 39 pp., 2003.
This report describes the results of tests of stabilized mercury wastes undertaken to examine the consequences of mercury speciation on mercury release.
Mercury Contamination — Amalgamate (contract with NFS and ADA): Demonstration of DeHgSM Process
U.S. DOE, Office of Environmental Management.
DOE/EM-0471, 32 pp., 1999.
Mercury Removal Performance of AmberliteTM GT-73A, PuroliteTM S-920, IonacTM SR-4 and SIR-200TM Resins
F.F. Fondeur, W.B. Van Pelt, S.D. Fink.
WSRC-TR-2002-00046, 14 pp., Jan 2002.
Remediating Mercury Contaminated Soil at Botany Industrial Park
Orica Austalia Pty. Ltd., 2 pp, 2010
A mercury technology was used to produce chlorine at Botany Industrial Park in Australia from 1945 until 2002. The original plant was completely demolished by 2007. To address Hg detected in the site's soil, excavation of the contaminated areas will be followed by on-site application of a water-based soil washing technology in a mobile treatment plant to remove the contaminant. The washing and screening process separates Hg from the bulk of the soil, and the washing water is recycled. The majority of Hg is recovered in its elemental liquid form. Remediation work should commence in late 2010 and be completed in mid 2011. Untreatable contaminated concrete and sludge from the soil washing process will be disposed of at an off-site licensed facility. The enclosed soil washing plant and the main excavation area will have emission control systems that contain activated carbon beds to remove Hg from the air. After confirming that the treatment has achieved remediation goals, the cleansed soil will be stockpiled before reinstallation on site. The project is described in greater detail in the site's Remediation Action Plan (140 pp, 2010).
Stabilization and Testing of Mercury Containing Wastes: Borden Catalyst
L.A. Rieser, P. Bishop, M.T. Suidan, H. Piao, R.A. Fauche, and J. Zhang.
EPA 600-R-02-019, 42 pp., 2001.
Contact: Paul Randall, firstname.lastname@example.org
This report describes a demonstration of a technique to treat leachate with sulfide and phosphate binders.
Stabilization and Testing of Mercury Containing Wastes: Borden Sludge
Bishop, P., R.A. Rauche, L.A. Rieser, M.T. Suidan, and J. Zhang.
EPA 600-R-02-020, 26 pp., 2002.
Contact: Paul Randall, email@example.com
This report details the stability assessment of a mercury-containing sulfide treatment sludge.
Stabilization of Mercury in Waste Material from the Sulfur Bank Mercury Mine: Innovative Technology Evaluation Report
U.S. EPA, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Cincinnati, OH.
EPA 540-R-04-502, 68 pp, 2004.
Investigators examined the Silica Micro Encapsulation process developed by Klean Earth Environmental Company, an inorganic sulfide stabilization technology (ENTHRALL®) developed by E&C Williams, and a generic phosphate treatment.
Sulfur Polymer Stabilization/Solidification (SPSS) Treatment of Mixed Waste Mercury Recovered from Environmental Restoration Activities at BNL
P.D. Kalb, J.W. Adams, and L.W. Milian.
BNL-52614, 43 pp., 2001.
A pilot-scale demonstration of the SPSS process for treatment of contaminated mixed-waste soils containing high concentrations (∼5,000 mg/L) of mercury and liquid elemental mercury was conducted at Brookhaven National Lab. SPSS chemically stabilizes the mercury to reduce vapor pressure and leachability and physically encapsulates the waste in a solid matrix to eliminate dispersion and provide long-term durability.
Technical Report: Advances in Encapsulation Technologies for the Management of Mercury-Contaminated Hazardous Wastes
S. Chattopadhyay, W.E. Condit, Battelle, Columbus, OH.
EPA 600-R-02-081, 46 pp., Aug 2002.
Contact: Paul Randall, firstname.lastname@example.org
Encapsulation methods physically immobilize hazardous wastes to prevent contact with leaching agents such as water. This report summarizes the following methods: sulfur polymer stabilization/solidification and encapsulation by chemically bonded phosphate ceramic, polyethylene, asphalt, polyester resins, synthetic elastomers, polysiloxane, sol-gels (e.g., polycerams), and Dolocrete™.
Bench- and Pilot-Scale Demonstration of Thermal Desorption for Removal of Mercury from the Lower East Fork Poplar Creek Floodplain Soils
M.I. Morris, R.J. Sams, G. Gillis, R.W. Helsel, E.S. Alperin, T.J. Geisler, A. Groen, and D. Root.
CONF-950216-129, 11 pp., 1995.
The Sepradyne™-Raduce System for Recovery of Mercury from Mixed Waste
U.S. DOE, Office of Science and Technology.
DOE/EM-0633, 42 pp., 2002.
Contact: Greg Hulet, email@example.com
SepraDyne™, through its subsidiary Raduce, has demonstrated a process for vacuum thermal desorption that can remove mercury from mixed wastes to levels below 10 ppm.
Technical Guidelines for On-Site Thermal Desorption of Solid Media and Low Level Mixed Waste Contaminated with Mercury and/or Hazardous Chlorinated Organics
The Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC), 68 pp., 1998.
CLU-IN Site Profile Databases contain information on thousands of projects where innovative approaches have been used to deal with contamination problems.
Lists field demonstrations of innovative remediation technologies sponsored by government agencies working in partnership with private technology developers.
The FRTR Remediation Case Study Searchable Database provides capability to search all the case studies by keyword and category, including media/matrix, contaminant type, primary and supplemental technology type, specific site name, or state.
Technology Innovation News Survey Archives
The Technology Innovation News Survey archive contains resources gathered from published material and gray literature relevant to the research, development, testing, and application of innovative technologies for the remediation of hazardous waste sites. The collected abstracts date from 1998 to the present, and the archive is updated twice each month.