Journal of Environmental Quality vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 751 - 759
An acidophilic, sulfur-oxidizing Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans MET bacterium was isolated from anaerobically digested, dewatered sewage sludge. This bacterium showed sulfur-oxidizing ability at both acidic and neutral conditions, and allowed metal leaching even at a high (130 g L-1) sludge solids concentration. We found that low metal leaching efficiency at high solids concentration was mainly due to an increase in buffering capacity resulting in retardation of pH reduction. Therefore, metal leaching was mainly influenced not by sludge solids concentration, but by the pH (or sulfate concentration per unit sludge mass) of the sludge solutions. The relationship between the pH of the sludge solution and the efficiency of metal leaching was obtained by quantitatively investigating the effect of pH reduction or the amount of sulfate produced per unit sludge mass on leaching of each metal. Furthermore, the relationship between total metal content in the sludge and metal leached to the solution was obtained for each metal. Such a relationship allowed estimation of leachable metal at various amounts of total metal content in sludge.