Novel cost effective full scale mussel shell bioreactors for metal removal and acid neutralization

J Environ Manage. 2016 Dec 1;183(Pt 3):601-612. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.09.023. Epub 2016 Sep 12.


Acid mine drainage (AMD) impacted waters are a worldwide concern for the mining industry and countries dealing with this issue; both active and passive technologies are employed for the treatment of such waters. Mussel shell bioreactors (MSB) represent a passive technology that utilizes waste from the shellfish industry as a novel substrate. The aim of this study is to provide insight into the biogeochemical dynamics of a novel full scale MSB for AMD treatment. A combination of water quality data, targeted geochemical extractions, and metagenomic analyses were used to evaluate MSB performance. The MSB raised the effluent pH from 3.4 to 8.3 while removing up to ∼99% of the dissolved Al, and Fe and >90% Ni, Tl, and Zn. A geochemical gradient was observed progressing from oxidized to reduced conditions with depth. The redox conditions helped define the microbial consortium that consists of a specialized niche of organisms that influence elemental cycling (i.e. complex Fe and S cycling). MSB technology represents an economic and effective means of full scale, passive AMD treatment that is an attractive alternative for developing economies due to its low cost and ease of implementation.

Keywords: Acid mine drainage (AMD); Bioreactor; Metagenomics; Mussel shells; Passive treatment systems; Sulfate reduction.

MeSH terms

  • Acids / metabolism
  • Animal Shells / microbiology*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bioreactors / microbiology*
  • Bivalvia
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Metals / analysis
  • Metals / metabolism*
  • Microbial Consortia
  • Mining
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sulfur / analysis
  • Sulfur / metabolism*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Acids
  • Metals
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Sulfur