Sustainable Sources of Biomass for Bioremediation of Heavy Metals in Waste Water Derived from Coal-Fired Power Generation
Biosorption of heavy metals using dried algal biomass has been extensively described but rarely implemented. We contend this is because available algal biomass is a valuable product with a ready market. Therefore, we considered an alternative and practical approach to algal bioremediation in which algae were cultured directly in the waste water stream. We cultured three species of algae with and without nutrient addition in water that was contaminated with heavy metals from an Ash Dam associated with coal-fired power generation and tested metal uptake and bioremediation potential. All species achieved high concentrations of heavy metals (to 8% dry mass). Two key elements, V and As, reached concentrations in the biomass of 1543 mg.kg−1 DW and 137 mg.kg−1 DW. Growth rates were reduced by more than half in neat Ash Dam water than when nutrients were supplied in excess. Growth rate and bioconcentration were positively correlated for most elements, but some elements (e.g. Cd, Zn) were concentrated more when growth rates were lower, indicating the potential to tailor bioremediation depending on the pollutant. The cosmopolitan nature of the macroalgae studied, and their ability to grow and concentrate a suite of heavy metals from industrial wastes, highlights a clear benefit in the practical application of waste water bioremediation.