The extensive pentachlorophenol (PCP) contamination and its increasing treatment costs motivate the search for a more competitive treatment alternative. In a municipal wastewater treatment plant, anaerobic sludge-handling processes comprises three bio-processes, namely the anaerobic sludge digestion, post-sludge digestion and sludge land application, which reduce sludge organic content and make sludge a good fertilizer for land application. Availability and effectiveness make the anaerobic sludge handling processes potential technologies to treat PCP-contaminated soil. The technical feasibility of using anaerobic sludge bioprocesses was studied by treating PCP soil in two pilot digesters to simulate the primary sludge digestion, in serum bottles to mimic the post-sludge digestion, and in glass pans to represent the on-site sludge application.
For primary digestion, the results showed that up to 0.98 and 0.6 mM of chemical and soil PCP, respectively, were treated at nearly 100% and 97.5% efficiencies. The PCP was transformed 95% to 3-MCP, 4.5% to 3,4-DCP, and 0.5% to 3,5-DCP. For post-digestion, 100% pure chemical PCP and greater than 95% soil PCP were removed in less than 6 months with no chlorophenol residues of any kind. Complete removal of PCP by-products makes this process a good soil cleanup method. For on-site treatment, PCP was efficiently treated by multiple sludge application; however, the PCP residue was observed due to the high initial PCP content in soil. Overall, more mass PCP per unit sludge per day was processed using the primary sludge digestion than the on-site soil treatment or post-sludge digestion. And, sludge acclimation resulted in better PCP treatment efficiencies with all three processes.