Question:Does anyone have experience with remediation of contaminated soils? What are some different options?

by bhamster | February 09, 2021 18:27 | #25638

I'm interested in what options there are for remediation after someone confirms that their soil is contaminated with heavy metals, hazardous organic compounds, or other pollutants.

Phytoremediation, bioremediation with microbes? Building upon this question: Are there lists of plants and the chemicals they can remediate?

Chemical treatments?

Physical methods?

What kinds of areas or degrees of contamination are different approaches effective for?

How do you know if remediation is or isn't working?

Thanks for sharing any experiences or ideas! I'll comment with ideas below and start a wiki if there's lots to gather and organize.


A combo chemical and phytoremediation example from Mindy who joined the soil research area review kick-off call last week:

"I saw a talk at a conference where they used a "chelating agent" called EDDS and grew plants to take lead out of the soil. The plant he used was called vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) and he said you could order it from plant stores. The EDDS "chelating agent" converted bound forms of lead to plant-available forms, and the plants were able to remove enough lead from the soil to make the soils fall below the EPA standards of 400ppm.”

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EDDS is closely related to EDTA. The part to be careful of- there are three stereoisomers. Only one(the S,S) is thought to break down well. This is from Wikipedia on today's date (2-9-2021). If purchasing EDDS, please be sure you get the S,S stereo isomer.

Thanks for finding and sharing this critical safety info @Ag8n.

Adding a little more background here for anyone interested: Stereoisomers are different forms of a chemical compound that share the exact same chemical makeup, but differ in how their atoms are oriented in space. They will have the same chemical formula, so the (S,S) designation before the formula is key.

The other stereoisomers break down more slowly and could end up staying in the environment for a long time, similar to EDTA.

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Here’s a project involving microbial remediation of sediment in the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn: Shared by @liz!

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Yes I have worked on remediation of different kinds of contaminants, toxic wastes, and contaminated sites and waters, with fungi, plants, microbes and amendments and lead trainings on this. It really depends on the type and extent of the contamination. For example, hyperaccumulator plants are typically used for extracting metals from soils, and amendments like the EDTA mentioned above or phosphate-rich materials can be applied to 'bind' up metals though not permanently. Decomposer fungi can be used in closed systems to degrade some organic contaminants like diesel oil or PAH's, as can certain bacteria. Often the most successful approaches are holistic and mimic ecology where many different organisms all play a role. An important thing to consider when working on remediation is how you will reduce harm - if you use plants to extract metals, what will you do with the plant material after? There are different ways to assess whether its working. Testing (sending samples to a lab for analysis) before and after treatment is a surefire way to see if its working, but in community settings in the past where I haven't had resources to pay for testing, I have worked with 'bioassays' with bean seeds, worms, or other ways of seeing if toxicity is being reduced. I am including a link to a factsheet on bioremediation I made which includes plant lists for remediation. I have created manuals on myco-remediation that I really need to publish and on other types of remediation. Right now I am working on community studies of ecological /accessible remediation options because there are few case studies to draw on of these options being applied in real world contexts for us to learn from. (

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Thank you so much for taking the time to share all this helpful info, @DanielleS!

Totally makes sense that the more successful approaches often include different organisms that work together in a system like they would in the "wild."

Also thanks for specifically pointing out the importance of safely disposing of any living tissue that might have taken up contaminants.

That bioremediation factsheet you linked--WOW! So fabulously comprehensive. I'm collecting resources on remediation of contaminated soils on an in-progress wiki, and will be sure to highlight this factsheet. (And I'll link the wiki here in case you want to add anything!)

Looking forward to seeing your work on myco-remediation approaches and applying remediation in communities. Thanks again!

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