Bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbons through landfarming: Are simplicity and cost-effectiveness the only advantages?

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The biological removal of petroleum products using landfarming has been applied commercially in large scale with relative success. The technology has been widely used due to its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. However, together with these advantages, there are physical, chemical and biological aspects of the technology that can hamper the remediation process. The dominant pollutant removal mechanisms involved in landfarming are volatilisation of low molecular weight volatile compounds during the early days of contamination or treatment, biodegradation and adsorption. However, volatilisation, leaching of the petroleum products and the remaining ‘recalcitrant’ hydrocarbon residues present both health and environmental challenges to the rehabilitation practitioners when designing the landfarming technology. Bioaugmentation and biostimulation are promising bioremediation approaches involving landfarming. However, due to the inherent problems related to bioaugmentation such as poor survival of augmented strains, biostimulation should be preferred in contaminated sites with indigenous pollutant-degrading bacteria. Although simplicity and cost-effectiveness are the major advantages for using landfarming, other factors generally regarded as disadvantageous to implementing the technology can be addressed. These includes requirements for large land area for treatment, availability of the pollutant degrading bacteria, effectiveness of the technology at high constituent concentration (more than 50,000 ppm), improved concentration reductions in cases requiring more than 95% of pollution reduction and the flexibility of the technology in integrating the removal of petroleum hydrocarbons with other contaminants that may occur with the petroleum products.

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