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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - SHORT COMMUNICATIONS

Analysis of Volatile and Semivolatile Hydrocarbons Recovered from Steam-Classified Municipal Solid Waste


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 4, p. 1556-1561
    Received: May 9, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): leahyj@uah.edu
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  1. Joseph G. Leahy *,
  2. Thomas E. Carrington and
  3. Michael H. Eley
  1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 35899


Hazardous household wastes comprise a significant proportion of municipal solid waste (MSW), and therefore serve as the source of many toxic or carcinogenic organic chemicals that are released in the environment through landfill gases or leachates. In the present study, we demonstrate the utility of the steam classification process in removing hazardous semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from MSW. Steam classification is a patented technology that involves the treatment of MSW with steam under pressure to yield a cellulosic biomass product that can be used as a fuel or in building materials. The SVOCs and VOCs from the waste off-gases are collected in the steam condensate and in an effluent charcoal filter. The results of this study show that at least two SVOCs and at least 17 VOCs can be removed from the waste. The most commonly identified compounds were diethylphthalate, styrene, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, and toluene in the condensates, and styrene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and toluene in the charcoal filters. On a weight basis, aromatic hydrocarbons were primarily recovered in the condensates, while the chloroaliphatic hydrocarbons were recovered almost exclusively from the charcoal filters. 1,3-Dichlorobenzene, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, and chloroform together comprised nearly 50% of the 4470 μg kg−1 average mass of SVOCs and VOCs recovered from about 454 kg of MSW in these experiments. Toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP) analyses showed that steam classification recovered at least 75 to 91% of tested analytes. Overall, these results suggest that steam classification represents an effective technology for a significant reduction or the removal of hazardous organics from the waste stream, and, consequently, in reducing the extent of environmental contamination associated with landfill leachates and gases.

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