Anaerobic treatment of pinkwater in a fluidized bed reactor containing GAC

Stephen W Maloney, Neal R Adrian, Robert F Hickey, Robert L Heine
Journal of Hazardous Materials 2002 May 3, 92 (1): 77-88
Pinkwater is generated during the handling and demilitarization of conventional explosives. This listed hazardous waste contains dissolved trinitrotoluene (TNT) and cyclo trimethylene trinitramine (RDX), as well as some by-products. It represents the largest quantity of hazardous waste generated by the operations support command, and its treatment produces a by-product hazardous waste--spent granular activated carbon (GAC). Anaerobic treatment in a fluidized bed reactor (FBR) containing GAC is an emerging technology for organic compounds resistant to aerobic biological treatment. Bench scale batch studies using an anaerobic consortium of bacteria fed ethanol as the sole electron donor demonstrated the transformation of TNT to triaminotoluene (TAT), which then degrades to undetectable end products. RDX is sequentially degraded to nitroso-, dinitroso-, trinitroso- and hydroxylaminodinitroso-RDX before the triazine ring is presumably cleaved, forming methanol and formaldehyde as major end products. The bacterial members of the anaerobic consortia are typically found in sludge digesters at municipal or industrial wastewater treatment plants. The results of a pilot scale evaluation of this process that was conducted at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant (MCAAP, OK) over a 1 year period are reported in this paper. The pilot test experienced wide fluctuations in influent concentrations, representative of true field conditions. The FBR was a 20 in. (51 cm) diameter column with an overall height of 15 ft (4.9 m) and a bed of GAC occupying 11 ft (3.4m). Water was recirculated through the column continuously at 30 gpm (114 l/min) to keep the GAC fluidized, and pinkwater for treatment was pumped into the recirculation line. Several flowrates were evaluated to determine the proper mass loading rate (mass of TNT and RDX per reactor volume per time, kg/m(3) per day) which the reactor could handle while meeting the discharge limitations. Based on the tests performed, a 1 gpm (3.785 l/min) rate in the 188 gal (710 l) volume of the fluidized GAC bed was determined to consistently meet the discharge requirements. This information was used to develop a cost estimate for a system capable of treating the total effluent currently produced at MCAAP. The cost of installing and operating this system was compared to the cost of GAC adsorption for MCAAP at current pinkwater generation rates. The GAC-FBR system had an annual operating cost of approximately US$ 19K, compared to US$ 71 K annually for GAC adsorption. When including the amortization of the capital equipment required for the GAC-FBR, the payback period for installation of this new process was estimated at 3.7 years.

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