Compost used to clean up pollution

Researchers on an EU project have demonstrated how enriched compost can be used to clean up polluted brownfield sites more quickly and cost-effectively than traditional methods.

The LIFE project aimed to demonstrate that compost-based bioremediation technology could be used effectively to reclaim polluted sites for new development.

The project was carried out in the Basque Country, in Spain, where rehabilitation of urban brownfield areas is a priority.

Many brownfield sites still exist in the region’s cities as a result of their industrial past, and have left a legacy of serious pollution problems that are preventing redevelopment.

It was hoped the technique would speed up the rate of decontamination and allow sites to be redeveloped more quickly.

The research team have now announced that the project successfully proved that adding enriched compost to polluted soils stimulated microbial growth.

Summing up the results of the project, the team said: “Mineral oil concentration was decreased by up to 88%, significantly improving soil toxicity by the end of the project period.

“Degradation rates of contaminants were also improved and optimum conditions allowed time savings of 53%, compared to conventional bioremediation methods.”

They said contamination levels were reduced to below 400 parts per million with just six months, compared to the two-year wait with traditional remediation systems.

The team said other advantages included that it avoided polluting groundwater during the clean up, limited risks to human health, had a lower energy demand, and eliminated the need for contaminated soils to be sent to landfill.

It is believed that the technique will also be 94% lower than the cost of incineration and 80% lower than standard landfill remediation techniques.

Read more about the project here.

Kate Martin

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