Soil is a vital natural resource that regulates our environment sustainability and provide essential resources to humans and nature. Nowadays, with an increasingly populated and urbanized world, pollution is widely recognized as a significant challenge to soil and groundwater resources management. The most common chemicals found in soils and water plumb in a dissolved state and considered as potential pollutants are heavy metals, dyes, phenols, detergents, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and others organic substances, such as organic matter. Unlike organic contaminants, heavy metals are not biodegradable and tend to accumulate in living organisms and many heavy metal ions are known to be toxic or carcinogenic. Toxic heavy metals of particular concern zinc, copper, nickel, mercury, cadmium, lead and chromium. Electrokinetic remediation deserves particular attention in soil treatment due to its peculiar advantages, including the capability of treating fine and low permeability materials, and achieving consolidation, dewatering and removal of salts and inorganic contaminants like heavy metals in a single stage.
In this study, the remediation of artificially chromium contaminated soil by electrokinetic process, coupled with Eggshell Inorganic Fraction Powder (EGGIF) permeable reactive barrier (PRB), was investigated. An electric field of 2 V cm−1 was applied and was used an EGGIF/soil ratio of 30 g kg−1 of contaminated soil for the preparation of the permeable reactive barrier (PRB) in each test.
Results proved that the study of chromium mobility revealed the predominance in its transportation through the soil towards the anode, due essentially to the existence of chromium in the form of oxyanions (chromate and dichromate), which confers a negative charge to the molecule. Chromium removal by electrokinetic remediation was faster in low levels of concentration and the utilization of citric acid as buffer and complexing agent allowed to maintain pH of soil below the precipitation limit for this element. It was obtained high removal rates of chromium in both experiments, especially near the anode. In the normalized distance to cathode of 0.8 it was achieved a maximum removal rate of chromium of 55, 59 and 60% in initial chromium concentration of 500 mg kg−1, 250 mg kg−1 and 100 mg kg−1, respectively.
The viability of the new coupling technology developed (electrokinetic with EGGIF permeable reactive barrier) to treat low-permeability polluted soils was demonstrated. Based on the proved efficiency, this remediation technique has to be optimized and applied to real soils in order to validate it as a large-scale solution.