Electrokinetic Cleanups

by Yalcin B. Acar, Prof.; Dept. of Civil Engrg., Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge, LA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1992, Vol. 62, Issue 10, Pg. 58-60

Document Type: Feature article


Electrokinetic remediation of contaminated soils is a relatively new research area. Electrokinetic phenomena can be used to create barriers, and move particles, including pollutants such as heavy metals. The method was originally used in conventional geotechnical work in the 1930's by Leo Casagrande in Germany, where he stabilized a 300 ft railroad cut with electrodes that accelerated flows of pore fluids through the soil. For years geotechnical engineers experimented with the method for other conventional geotechnical purposes such as soil stabilization. In the early 1980's engineers began to use the method for geoenvironmental applications. The chemistry of the method is explained, and the author suggests that a lack of understanding has been a barrier to further applications and research in this country. The method shows promise for fine grained soils where electrical conductivity is not too high. Otherwise, the energy needed to operate a system makes the method too costly. There have been full-scale tests and one commercial application of the method in the Netherlands, by a firm that holds a European patent. The commercial application involved arsenic removal. In this country, the Environmental Protection Agency funded a field test at a Superfund site in Oregon to test the method for chromium removal. EPA is now funding a full-scale test in Baton Rouge, La. with a U.S. patent holder at a lead-contaminated site. The Department of Energy is also supporting research as well.

Subject Headings: Geotechnical engineering | Electrokinetics | Soil stabilization | Full-scale tests | Fluid flow | Fine-grained soils | Field tests

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