Unique Little Dirtflake: Performance of a Flocculation Agent in Mining Wastewater Treatment

The performance of a commercial flocculation agent on wastewater from the brown coal (lignite) mining industry was studied by laser diffraction using an Anton Paar Particle Size Analyzer (PSA). The particle size distribution, quantified by volume-weighted D50 values, shifted to larger sizes with increasing concentrations of flocculation agent. The PSA is therefore an appropriate tool for studying the performance of flocculation agents on mining wastewater contaminants.

Pollution of soil and ground water by effluents from the mining industry is a potential threat to the environment. Therefore, there are strict regulations and protocols to control this issue. 

The Title 40, Part 434 article of the US Code of Federal Regulations, which focuses on coal mining, specifies the acceptable final content of wastewater contaminants such as iron and manganese, the total suspended particles (TTS) as well the wastewater’s final pH. The TTS is usually reduced by mechanical processes like sedimentation or filtration. These processes being both cheaper and more efficient for large particles, the addition of flocculation agents, which aim at aggregating as many particles as possible, is a crucial part of the wastewater treatment process. 

Here we demonstrate the suitability of PSA instruments to assess the performance of such flocculation agents, by measuring the particle size changes in response to increasing concentrations of flocculation agent. 

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