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Monitoring phytoremediation of petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated soils in a closed and controlled environment



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Phytoremediation is a relatively new remediation technology that may be useful in removing organic and inorganic pollutants from soils. Much research has focused on this type of remediation in the past few years due to its potential as an efficient and cost effective technology.The purpose of this project was to extensively monitor phytoremediation of diesel-contaminated field soils in the laboratory under simulated field conditions. The main objectives were: to examine petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) transfer and degradation processes involved in phytoremediation of contaminated field soils; to compare phytoremediation of contaminated field soils with intrinsic bioremediation; and, to develop a rationally-based model that could be used as a starting point for a quantitative prediction of the rate of PHC removal.To realize these objectives a series of laboratory scale experiments were designed and carried out. The experiments reproduced pole planting of hybrid poplars into diesel contaminated field soils from a former bulk fuel station. The experiments were conducted in a closed and controlled environment over a 215-230 day period with numerous aspects of the system being monitored including volatilization of PHC from the tree and soil, and microbial activity of the soil.Monitoring data indicated that microbial degradation of the contaminant was by far the most influential monitored degradation pathway, accounting for 96.3 to 98.7% of the mass removed for soils containing poplars. The monitoring data also indicated a significant difference in the mass of contaminant removed from the soil for soils containing poplars compared to those without. The total estimated mass of contaminant removed varied between 8.3 and 27.7% of the initial mass for soils containing poplars and between 6.0 and 6.1% of the initial mass for soils without poplars. Lastly, using the monitoring data and the below ground biomass of the poplars from each of the experimental test cells, a rationally-based model was developed to be used as a starting point for quantitative prediction of the rate of PHC removal.



phytoremediation, petroleum hydrocarbons, diesel-contaminated soil, transfer and degradation, predictive model



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Civil Engineering


Civil Engineering


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