Posted by: drazizul | December 6, 2009

Lecture 6: Soil contamination and Bioremediation of soil

Steps of Bioremediation

Soil Pollution due to man made reasons

Soil contamination typically arises from the rupture of underground storage tanks, application of pesticides, percolation of contaminated surface water to subsurface strata, oil and fuel dumping, leaching of wastes from landfills or direct discharge of industrial wastes to the soil. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, lead and other heavy metals. This occurrence of this phenomenon is correlated with the degree of industrializations and intensities of chemical usage.

The concern over soil contamination stems primarily from health risks, from direct contact with the contaminated soil, vapors from the contaminants, and from secondary contamination of water supplies within and underlying the soil.
Mapping of contaminated soil sites and the resulting cleanup are time consuming and expensive tasks, requiring extensive amounts of geology, hydrology, chemistry and computer modeling skills.

Soil pollution in China

• The immense and sustained growth of the People’s Republic of China since the 1970s has exacted a price from the land in increased soil pollution. The State Environmental Protection Administration believes it to be a threat to the environment, to food safety and to sustainable agriculture.
• According to a scientific sampling,150 million mi (100,000 square kilometres) of China’s cultivated land have been polluted, with contaminated water being used to irrigate a further 32.5 million mi (21,670 square kilometres) and another 2 million mi (1,300 square kilometres) covered or destroyed by solid waste. In total, the area accounts for one-tenth of China’s cultivatable land, and is mostly in economically developed areas.
• An estimated 12 million tonnes of grain are contaminated by heavy metals every year, causing direct losses of 20 billion yuan (US$2.57 billion).

Soil pollution in the USA
The United States, while having some of the most widespread soil contamination, has actually been a leader in defining and implementing standards for cleanup. Other industrialized countries have a large number of contaminated sites, but lag the U.S. in executing remediation. Developing countries may be leading in the next generation of new soil contamination cases.
• Each year in the U.S., thousands of sites complete soil contamination cleanup, some by using microbes that “eat up” toxic chemicals in soil, many others by simple excavation and others by more expensive high-tech soil vapor extraction or air stripping. Efforts proceed worldwide to identify new sites of soil contamination.

Affects of soil pollution on Ecology

• Not unexpectedly, soil contaminants can have significant deleterious consequences for ecosystems. There are radical soil chemistry changes which can arise from the presence of many hazardous chemicals even at low concentration of the contaminant species. These changes can manifest in the alteration of metabolism of endemic microorganisms and arthropods resident in a given soil environment. The result can be virtual eradication of some of the primary food chain, which in turn have major consequences for predator or consumer species. Even if the chemical effect on lower life forms is small, the lower pyramid levels of the food chain may ingest alien chemicals, which normally become more concentrated for each consuming rung of the food chain.
• Many of these effects are now well known, such as the concentration of persistent DDT materials for avian consumers, leading to weakening of egg shells, increased chick mortality and potential extinction of species.
• Effects occur to agricultural lands which have certain types of soil contamination. Contaminants typically alter plant metabolism, most commonly to reduce crop yields. This has a secondary effect upon soil conservation, since the languishing crops cannot shield the Earth’s soil mantle from erosion phenomena. Some of these chemical contaminants have long half-lives and in other cases derivative chemicals are formed from decay of primary soil contaminants.

Cleanup options

1. Microbes can be used in soil cleanup
• Cleanup or remediation is analyzed by environmental scientists who utilize field measurement of soil chemicals and also apply computer models for analyzing transport and fate of soil chemicals. Thousands of soil contamination cases are currently in active cleanup across the U.S. as of 2006. There are several principal strategies for remediation:
2. Excavate soil and take it to a disposal site away from ready pathways for human or sensitive ecosystem contact. This technique also applies to dredging of bay muds containing toxins.

3. Aeration of soils at the contaminated site (with attendant risk of creating air pollution)

4. Thermal remediation by introduction of heat to raise subsurface temperatures sufficiently high to volatize chemical contaminants out of the soil for vapour extraction. Technologies include ISTD, electrical resistance heating (ERH), and ET-DSPtm.

5. Bioremediation, involving microbial digestion of certain organic chemicals. Techniques used in bioremediation include landfarming, biostimulation and bioaugmentating soil biota with commercially available microflora.
6. Extraction of groundwater or soil vapor with an active electromechanical system, with subsequent stripping of the contaminants from the extract.
7. Containment of the soil contaminants (such as by capping or paving over in place).
Information needed for Soil Pollution remediation
to clean up materials added to soil include:
1) Kind of material – organic or inorganic – is the material biodegradable, is the material dangerous to animals and humans,
2) how much material was added to the soil, will it overload the organisms in the soil;
3) C:N ratio of the material, are additional nutrients needed ( N & P)
4) Kind of Soil – will the soil be able to handle the material before groundwater is contaminated,
5) Growing conditions for the soil organisms – is it too cold, too wet etc.
6) How long has the material been on the site – is there evidence of environmental problems, is it undergoing decomposition.
7) Immediate danger to people and the environment – Urgency of the situation.

Bioremediation can be defined as any process that uses microorganisms, fungi, green plants or their enzymes to return the natural environment altered by contaminants to its original condition. Bioremediation may be employed to attack specific soil contaminants, such as degradation of chlorinated hydrocarbons by bacteria. An example of a more general approach is the cleanup of oil spills by the addition of nitrate and/or sulfate fertilisers to facilitate the decomposition of crude oil by indigenous or exogenous bacteria.

Overview and applications
Naturally occurring bioremediation and phytoremediation have been used for centuries. For example, desalination of agricultural land by phytoextraction has a long tradition. Bioremediation technology using microorganisms was reportedly invented by George M. Robinson. He was the assistant county petroleum engineer for Santa Maria, California. During the 1960’s, he spent his spare time experimenting with dirty jars and various mixes of microbes.
Bioremediation technologies can be generally classified as in situ or ex situ. In situ bioremediation involves treating the contaminated material at the site while ex situ involves the removal of the contaminated material to be treated elsewhere. Some examples of bioremediation technologies are bioventing, landfarming, bioreactor, composting, bioaugmentation, rhizofiltration, and biostimulation.
Land Farming is a bioremediation treatment process that is performed in the upper soil zone or in biotreatment cells. Contaminated soils, sediments, or sludges are incorporated into the soil surface and periodically turned over (tilled) to aerate the mixture.

There are a number of cost/efficiency advantages to bioremediation, which can be employed in areas that are inaccessible without excavation. For example, hydrocarbon spills (specifically, petrol spills) or certain chlorinated solvents may contaminate groundwater, and introducing the appropriate electron acceptor or electron donor amendment, as appropriate, may significantly reduce contaminant concentrations after a lag time allowing for acclimation.

• This is typically much less expensive than excavation followed by disposal elsewhere, incineration or other ex situ treatment strategies, and reduces or eliminates the need for “pump and treat”, a common practice at sites where hydrocarbons have contaminated clean groundwater.

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  1. you cant blame this all on the farmers i live on one and we do what it takes to keep it clean so dont say no one elase does that that makes me made

  2. Interesting to read a blog by someone who has the same research interests as me. We face major soil and marine contamination in Nigeria from the oil and manufacturing sector. So far, bioremediation efforts are still at the research level, and there are no bioremediation schemes on a large scale. Any ideas on techniques which can be affordable to local farmers who bear the brunt of contamination, but cannot pay for any high tech methods?

  3. i think your are make same thingi good. thanks

  4. i am working on my fnal year dissertation and this is my area of interest and it has been very helpfull anf informative as i managed to capture some areas i had not looked at…great blog as ths is an area which has not been looked at and is greatly ignored especially in third world countries…God Bless

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