The effects of rapid mixing on the coagulation and sedimentation of ultra-fine coal and clay particles

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

As a consequence of new coal mining practices, coal preparation plants have been inundated with increased loads of coal and clay particles in their wastewaters. Traditionally, the industry has employed primary sedimentation as the fundamental treatment scheme for these sediment-laden blackwaters. This study was undertaken to determine the effects of a combination of coagulant addition and rapid mixing on the settleability of these particles. After initial testing, aluminum sulfate and two low molecular weight cationic polymers, Cyanamid Magnifloc 513C and Cyanamid 515C, were chosen as primary coagulants for use in this work. An artificial wastewater was prepared from finely powdered (62 to <38 microns) raw coal samples and tap water, after initial tests indicated that typical frothing and/or collector agents had no demonstrable effect on coagulant function. Initially determined optimum coagulant dosages, as well as flocculation and sedimentation times, were kept constant while rapid mix intensities were varied at G values of 330 sec⁻¹, 700 sec⁻¹, 2000 sec⁻¹ and 7000 sec⁻¹ for each sample. Using a combination of residual turbidity and particle size analyses to determine the effectiveness of each rapid mix intensity, it was discovered that only the highest mixing intensities and durations (G(t) values) caused floe disintegration due to overmixing. At the lower G(t) matrices floe formation and settleability was consistently good. When aluminum sulfate was used as a coagulant, the wastewater was tested at a high pH of 8.1 to 8.3 and a low pH of 5.5 to observe floe behavior under different conditions of coagulant mechanism. The test results were similar for both pH values except at the lowest mixing intensities where the high pH samples settled well, resulting in low residual turbidities, but the low pH samples had relatively high turbidities.