Removal of iron, zinc, and copper from waters impacted by acid mine drainage using natural zeolite

Mackayla Jane Thyfault, University of Texas at El Paso


In this research, the adsorption behavior of zeolites with respect to iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), and copper (Cu) has been studied in order to assess its application to heavy metal removal in polluted settings caused by acid mine drainage (AMD). The St. Cloud zeolitic deposit used in this project was characterized using a sieve analysis; the effective diameter and coefficient of uniformity were calculated. Batch studies were performed, and the samples were analyzed using ICP-OES. Batch studies used metal concentrations ranging from 50 mg/L to 650 mg/L. Freundlich, Linear, Langmuir, and BET adsorption isotherms were applied and evaluated to the batch study results. Column studies were performed to study the adsorption breakthrough curve for practical application of zeolite treatment of AMD, particularly treatment of concentrations similar to the contaminants of the Gold King Mine, Colorado AMD leakage in August 2015. Breakthrough curves were generated and evaluated to find 80% exhaustion. Regeneration column studies were executed to analyze the possible regeneration use of natural zeolite. A preliminary market analysis and business plan was executed to determine if zeolite would be a profitable commodity in the AMD remediation sector. It was found that the adsorption behavior zeolite possesses has great potential to remove heavy metals from polluted rivers, and the AMD remediation sector could financially provide profit from zeolite.

Subject Area

Environmental engineering

Recommended Citation

Thyfault, Mackayla Jane, "Removal of iron, zinc, and copper from waters impacted by acid mine drainage using natural zeolite" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10151265.