Optimization of soil physical and chemical conditions for the bioremediation of creosote-contaminated soil

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Mispah type soil (FAO:Lithosol) contaminated with > 250 000 mg kg−1 creosote was collected from the yard of a creosote treatment plant. The soils carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus contents were determined. Due to creosote contamination, the carbon content of the soil was found to be 130,000 mg C kg−1. This concentration was found to greatly affect the nitrogen content (0.08%). The phosphorus content was less affected (4.5%). It was estimated that a nutrient amendment to bring the soil to a C:N 10:1 would be adequate to stimulate microbial growth and creosote degradation. The soil was amended with a range of C:N ratios below and above the estimated ratio. In one of the treatments, the phosphorus content was amended. Sterile and natural controls were also set up. The soil was incubated at 30 °C on a rotary shaker at 150 rpm in the dark for six weeks. Water content was maintained at 70% field capacity. The lowest nitrogen supplementation (C:N = 25:1) was more effective in enhancing microbial growth (3.12E + 05) and creosote removal (68.7%) from the soil. Additional phosphorus was not very effective in enhancing the growth of microorganisms and removal of creosote. The highest nitrogen supplementation (C:N = 5:1) did not enhance microbial growth and creosote removal. A relationship between mass loss and creosote removal was also observed. Phenolics and lower molecular mass polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were observed to be more susceptible to microbial degradation than higher molecular mass compounds. Nutrient concentration, moisture content and pH were thus observed to play very significant roles in the utilization of creosote in soil. These results are being used for the development of a bioremediation technology for the remediation of creosote contaminated soils in a treatment plant in South Africa.

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