Recent studies revealed that organic acids such as citric and oxalic acids seemed to be more promising as chemical extracting agents for removal of heavy metals from contaminated sludge, since they are biodegradable and can attain a higher metal extraction efficiency at mildly acidic pH compared to other extracting agents. Results of a lab-scale study on the efficiency of citric acid in the extraction of chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni) and zinc (Zn) from anaerobically digested sludge, revealed that citric acid seemed to be highly effective in extracting Cr (at 100%), Cu (at 88%), Ni (at 98%) and Zn (at 100%) at pH 2.33, mostly at 5 days leaching time except for Cu and Zn, which are at 1 day and 2 h contact times respectively. Lead removal at the same pH was also high at 95% but at a longer leaching time of 11 days. At pH 3, citric acid seemed to be highly effective in extracting Pb (at 100%) at 1 day leaching time, although higher removals were also attained for Ni (70%) and Zn (80%) at only 2 h leaching time. Chemical speciation studies showed that Cr, Cu and Ni in the sludge sample seem to predominate in residual fractions, while Pb and Zn were found mostly bound to organic and inorganic matter forms, hence the potential of the sludge for land application.

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