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Enhancement and inhibition of microbial activity in hydrocarbon- contaminated arctic soils: Implications for nutrient-amended bioremediation

January 1, 1997

Bioremediation is being used or proposed as a treatment option at many hydrocarbon-contaminated sites. One such site is a former bulk-fuel storage facility near Barrow, AK, where contamination persists after approximately 380 m3 of JP-5 was spilled in 1970. The soil at the site is primarily coarse sand with low organic carbon (<1%) end low moisture (1-3%) contents. We examined the effects of nutrient additions on microorganisms in contaminated soil from this site in laboratory microcosms and in mesocosms incubated for 6 weeks in the field. Nitrogen was the major limiting nutrient in this system, but microbial populations and activity were maximally enhanced by additions of both nitrogen and phosphorus. When nutrients were added to soil in the field at three levels of N:P (100:45, 200:90, and 300:135 mg/kg soil), the greatest stimulation in microbial activity occurred at the lowest, rather than the highest, level of nutrient addition. The total soil-water potentials ranged from -2 to -15 bar with increasing levels of fertilizer. Semivolatile hydrocarbon concentrations declined significantly only in the soils treated at the low fertilizer level. These results indicate that an understanding of nutrient effects at a specific site is essential for successful bioremediation.Bioremediation is being used or proposed as a treatment option at many hydrocarbon-contaminated sites. One such site is a former bulk-fuel storage facility near Barrow, AK, where contamination persists after approximately 380 m3 of JP-5 was spilled in 1970. The soil at the site is primarily coarse sand with low organic carbon (<1%) and low moisture (1-3%) contents. We examined the effects of nutrient additions on microorganisms in contaminated soil from this site in laboratory microcosms and in mesocosms incubated for 6 weeks in the field. Nitrogen was the major limiting nutrient in this system, but microbial populations and activity were maximally enhanced by additions of both nitrogen and phosphorus. When nutrients were added to soil in the field at three levels of N:P (100:45, 200:90, and 300:135 mg/kg soil), the greatest stimulation in microbial activity occurred at the lowest, rather than the highest, level of nutrient addition. The total soil-water potentials ranged from -2 to -15 bar with increasing levels of fertilizer. Semi-volatile hydrocarbon concentrations declined significantly only in the soils treated at the low fertilizer level. These results indicate that an understanding of nutrient effects at a specific site is essential for successful bioremediation.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1997
Title Enhancement and inhibition of microbial activity in hydrocarbon- contaminated arctic soils: Implications for nutrient-amended bioremediation
DOI 10.1021/es960904d
Authors J.F. Braddock, M.L. Ruth, P.H. Catterall, J.L. Walworth, K. A. McCarthy
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Series Number
Index ID 70019740
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization