Final Report: Modeling the use of Plants in Remediation of Soil and Groundwater Contaminated by Hazardous Organic Substances

EPA Grant Number: R825549C034
Subproject: this is subproject number 034 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R825549
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: HSRC (1989) - Great Plains/Rocky Mountain HSRC
Center Director: Erickson, Larry E.
Title: Modeling the use of Plants in Remediation of Soil and Groundwater Contaminated by Hazardous Organic Substances
Investigators: Tracy, J. C. , Davis, L. C. , Erickson, Larry E. , Schnoor, J. L.
Institution: South Dakota State University , Kansas State University , University of Iowa
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: February 22, 1991 through May 17, 1994
Project Amount: Refer to main center abstract for funding details.
RFA: Hazardous Substance Research Centers - HSRC (1989) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Organic Chemical Contamination of Soil/Water , Land and Waste Management


The objectives of this project were to: (1) develop and verify models to simulate the fate of hazardous organic substances in a transpiring plant's root zone; and (2) use the simulation models to engineer plant remediation strategies for contaminated ground water and soil sites.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

Much of the population in US EPA Regions 7 and 8 relies on ground water for their potable water supply. Recent studies have shown that many aquifers within this region have been contaminated with hazardous organics that are by-products of agricultural production or have leaked from disposal sites. Due to the large scale nature of the soil contamination involved in these types of problems, conventional soil and ground water remediation techniques would prove to be very expensive or completely impractical. Several studies have demonstrated the potential for plants to play an important role in remediating soil and ground water contaminated with organic substances. However, before this new technology can be put into use, a method will have to be developed to predict the effects that plants have on soil and ground water remediation, so that effective planting and management plans can be developed.

The initial step in this study was to perform an exhaustive review of the available literature related to the fate of hazardous organic substances in a plant's root zone. Models that simulate the fate of organic substances in a plant's root zone and pilot scale experiments were to be developed that could examine the effects that vegetative systems have on the degradation of specific hazardous organic contaminants in the saturated and unsaturated zones of a soil. Modeling and experimental results were to be compared and sensitivity analyses performed to determine the most significant factors affecting contaminant degradation.

General models describing the fate of hazardous organic contaminants in the root zone of a soil under nonlimiting and limiting degradation conditions that include gas phase processes have been developed. Hypothetical simulations of the effect of remediating atrazine and benzene contaminated soil and ground water with the use of border planting strategies under non-limiting degradation conditions were performed). Model sensitivity analysis demonstrated that the most critical factor for aiding the degradation of benzene below the water table was the plant's ability to supply oxygen to the ground water via its root system, while degradation in the vadose zone was more dependent on the plant's ability to provide nutrients to the surrounding soil via root exudates. Further sensitivity analysis showed that the overall performance of a remediation system will be most dependent on the climatic conditions present during the remediation process. Experiments that measured the resistance of alfalfa grown in soil to a range of organics showed that only CCI4 and CHCI3 had marked effects on plant survival.

A pilot scale experiment was constructed using alfalfa grown in a flow through tank type system that contains sandy soil taken from the Kansas River Valley. Experiments were performed using toluene, phenol, TCE and TCA with specific results of each study resulting in several publications. Generally it can be said that majority of the water and contaminants in the system did not exit the down gradient end, with most loss of water being attributable to evapotranspiration by the alfalfa crop and the loss of toluene, phenol, TCE and TCA appearing to be attributable to biodegradation which was enhanced by the alfalfa's root system. An FT-IR was used to monitor fluxes of toluene, phenol, TCE, TCA, and CO2 in the gas phase. Toluene and phenol were not present in appreciable amounts in the gas phase, however, TCE and TCA were found in the gas phase in measurable quantities.

The investigators helped organize and deliver information on phytoremediation through two workshops on the beneficial effects of vegetation in contaminated soil. The investigators have identified a potential field site near Manhattan and they have established communication with the responsible parties.

Journal Articles on this Report : 5 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other subproject views: All 45 publications 5 publications in selected types All 5 journal articles
Other center views: All 904 publications 230 publications in selected types All 182 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Davis, L. C., Erickson, L. E., Lee, E., Shimp, J. F., and Tracy, J. C. "Modeling the effects of plants on the bioremediation of contaminated soil and ground water," Environmental Progress 12(1):67-75 (1993). R825549C034 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Erickson LE, Banks MK, Davis LC, Schwab AP, Muralidharan N, Reilley K, Tracy JC. Using vegetation to enhance in situ bioremediation. Environmental Progress 1994;13(4):226-231. R825549C034 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Erickson LE, Davis LC, Narayanan M. Bioenergetics and bioremediation of contaminated soil. Thermochimica Acta 1995;250(2):353-358. R825549C034 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Narayanan M, Davis LC, Tracy JC, Erickson LE, Green RM. Experimental and modeling studies of the fate of organic contaminants in the presence of alfalfa plants. Journal of Hazardous Materials 1995;41(2-3):229-249. R825549C034 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Narayanan M, Davis LC, Erickson LE. Fate of volatile chlorinated organic compounds in a laboratory chamber with alfalfa plants. Environmental Science & Technology 1995;29(9):2437-2444. R825549C034 (Final)
R825549C062 (Final)
not available

Supplemental Keywords:

bioremediation, root zone, plant uptake, transport, organic compounds, oxygen transfer, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Waste, Water, Geographic Area, Remediation, Contaminated Sediments, Environmental Chemistry, Geochemistry, Hazardous Waste, Ecology and Ecosystems, Groundwater remediation, Hazardous, EPA Region, sediment treatment, fate and transport, contaminant transport, soil and groundwater remediation, fate and transport , contaminated sediment, root zone, contaminated soil, hazardous organic contaminants, bioremediation of soils, Region 7, Region 8, contaminated groundwater, groundwater contamination, hazardous wate, hazardous organic compounds, contaminated aquifers, phytoremediation, bioremediation, aquifer remediation, groundwater

Relevant Websites: Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 1991
  • 1992
  • 1993

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R825549    HSRC (1989) - Great Plains/Rocky Mountain HSRC

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R825549C006 Fate of Trichloroethylene (TCE) in Plant/Soil Systems
    R825549C007 Experimental Study of Stabilization/Solidification of Hazardous Wastes
    R825549C008 Modeling Dissolved Oxygen, Nitrate and Pesticide Contamination in the Subsurface Environment
    R825549C009 Vadose Zone Decontamination by Air Venting
    R825549C010 Thermochemical Treatment of Hazardous Wastes
    R825549C011 Development, Characterization and Evaluation of Adsorbent Regeneration Processes for Treament of Hazardous Waste
    R825549C012 Computer Method to Estimate Safe Level Water Quality Concentrations for Organic Chemicals
    R825549C013 Removal of Nitrogenous Pesticides from Rural Well-Water Supplies by Enzymatic Ozonation Process
    R825549C014 The Characterization and Treatment of Hazardous Materials from Metal/Mineral Processing Wastes
    R825549C015 Adsorption of Hazardous Substances onto Soil Constituents
    R825549C016 Reclamation of Metal and Mining Contaminated Superfund Sites using Sewage Sludge/Fly Ash Amendment
    R825549C017 Metal Recovery and Reuse Using an Integrated Vermiculite Ion Exchange - Acid Recovery System
    R825549C018 Removal of Heavy Metals from Hazardous Wastes by Protein Complexation for their Ultimate Recovery and Reuse
    R825549C019 Development of In-situ Biodegradation Technology
    R825549C020 Migration and Biodegradation of Pentachlorophenol in Soil Environment
    R825549C021 Deep-Rooted Poplar Trees as an Innovative Treatment Technology for Pesticide and Toxic Organics Removal from Soil and Groundwater
    R825549C022 In-situ Soil and Aquifer Decontaminaiton using Hydrogen Peroxide and Fenton's Reagent
    R825549C023 Simulation of Three-Dimensional Transport of Hazardous Chemicals in Heterogeneous Soil Cores Using X-ray Computed Tomography
    R825549C024 The Response of Natural Groundwater Bacteria to Groundwater Contamination by Gasoline in a Karst Region
    R825549C025 An Electrochemical Method for Acid Mine Drainage Remediation and Metals Recovery
    R825549C026 Sulfide Size and Morphology Identificaiton for Remediation of Acid Producing Mine Wastes
    R825549C027 Heavy Metals Removal from Dilute Aqueous Solutions using Biopolymers
    R825549C028 Neutron Activation Analysis for Heavy Metal Contaminants in the Environment
    R825549C029 Reducing Heavy Metal Availability to Perennial Grasses and Row-Crops Grown on Contaminated Soils and Mine Spoils
    R825549C030 Alachlor and Atrazine Losses from Runoff and Erosion in the Blue River Basin
    R825549C031 Biodetoxification of Mixed Solid and Hazardous Wastes by Staged Anaerobic Fermentation Conducted at Separate Redox and pH Environments
    R825549C032 Time Dependent Movement of Dioxin and Related Compounds in Soil
    R825549C033 Impact of Soil Microflora on Revegetation Efforts in Southeast Kansas
    R825549C034 Modeling the use of Plants in Remediation of Soil and Groundwater Contaminated by Hazardous Organic Substances
    R825549C035 Development of Electrochemical Processes for Improved Treatment of Lead Wastes
    R825549C036 Innovative Treatment and Bank Stabilization of Metals-Contaminated Soils and Tailings along Whitewood Creek, South Dakota
    R825549C037 Formation and Transformation of Pesticide Degradation Products Under Various Electron Acceptor Conditions
    R825549C038 The Effect of Redox Conditions on Transformations of Carbon Tetrachloride
    R825549C039 Remediation of Soil Contaminated with an Organic Phase
    R825549C040 Intelligent Process Design and Control for the Minimization of Waste Production and Treatment of Hazardous Waste
    R825549C041 Heavy Metals Removal from Contaminated Water Solutions
    R825549C042 Metals Soil Pollution and Vegetative Remediation
    R825549C043 Fate and Transport of Munitions Residues in Contaminated Soil
    R825549C044 The Role of Metallic Iron in the Biotransformation of Chlorinated Xenobiotics
    R825549C045 Use of Vegetation to Enhance Bioremediation of Surface Soils Contaminated with Pesticide Wastes
    R825549C046 Fate and Transport of Heavy Metals and Radionuclides in Soil: The Impacts of Vegetation
    R825549C047 Vegetative Interceptor Zones for Containment of Heavy Metal Pollutants
    R825549C048 Acid-Producing Metalliferous Waste Reclamation by Material Reprocessing and Vegetative Stabilization
    R825549C049 Laboratory and Field Evaluation of Upward Mobilization and Photodegradation of Polychlorinated Dibenzo-P-Dioxins and Furans in Soil
    R825549C050 Evaluation of Biosparging Performance and Process Fundamentals for Site Remediation
    R825549C051 Field Scale Bioremediation: Relationship of Parent Compound Disappearance to Humification, Mineralization, Leaching, Volatilization of Transformaiton Intermediates
    R825549C052 Chelating Extraction of Heavy Metals from Contaminated Soils
    R825549C053 Application of Anaerobic and Multiple-Electron-Acceptor Bioremediation to Chlorinated Aliphatic Subsurface Contamination
    R825549C054 Application of PGNAA Remote Sensing Methods to Real-Time, Non-Intrusive Determination of Contaminant Profiles in Soils
    R825549C055 Design and Development of an Innovative Industrial Scale Process to Economically Treat Waste Zinc Residues
    R825549C056 Remediation of Soils Contaminated with Wood-Treatment Chemicals (PCP and Creosote)
    R825549C057 Effects of Surfactants on the Bioavailability and Biodegradation of Contaminants in Soils
    R825549C058 Contaminant Binding to the Humin Fraction of Soil Organic Matter
    R825549C059 Identifying Ground-Water Threats from Improperly Abandoned Boreholes
    R825549C060 Uptake of BTEX Compounds by Hybrid Poplar Trees in Hazardous Waste Remediation
    R825549C061 Biofilm Barriers for Waste Containment
    R825549C062 Plant Assisted Remediation of Soil and Groundwater Contaminated by Hazardous Organic Substances: Experimental and Modeling Studies
    R825549C063 Extension of Laboratory Validated Treatment and Remediation Technologies to Field Problems in Aquifer Soil and Water Contamination by Organic Waste Chemicals