Competitive effects on mercury removal by an agricultural waste: application to synthetic and natural spiked waters

In this work, the efficiency of a local and highly available agricultural waste, the raw rice husk, was used to remove mercury (Hg) from synthetic and natural waters, spiked with concentrations that reflect the contamination problems found in the environment. Different operating conditions were tested, including initial pH, ionic strength, the presence of co-ions (cadmium) and organic matter. The sorption efficiency of rice husk was slightly affected by the presence H+ ions (pH range between 3 and 9), but in the presence of NaNO3 and NaCl electrolytes and in binary solutions containing Cd2+ and Hg2+, the sorption efficiency was dependent on the nature and levels of the interfering ion and on the initial concentration of Hg2+ used. Nevertheless, in a situation of equilibrium the effect of those ions was negligible and the removal efficiency ranged between 82% and 94% and between 90% and 96% for an initial Hg2+ concentration of 0.05 mg L−1 and 0.50 mg L−1, respectively. In more complex matrices, i.e. in the presence of humic substances and in natural river waters, the speciation and dynamics of Hg was changed and a fraction of the metal becomes unavailable in solution. Even then, the values obtained for Hg removal were satisfactory, i.e. between 59% and 76% and 81% and 85% for an initial concentration of Hg2+ of 0.05 and 0.50 mg L−1, respectively.


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