Bioremediation of Petroleum Contaminated Soils

Project location: Italy
Project start date: March 2004 - Project end date: March 2005
Project number: 2003-27
Beneficiary: Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum

Bioremediation of petroleum contaminated soils
Microbial resources and technical tools for process monitoring

This project focused on an important issue such as petroleum contaminated soils, has been proposed to the Nando Peretti Foundation by the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athaenum (APRA) of Rome and will be carried out by the prestigious Istituto Sperimentale per la Nutrizione delle Piante (ISPN).
ISNP, technical body of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, is a research institution dealing with the main issues regarding soil-plant relationships (soil fertility and its fitting with fertilizers characteristics, improvement and standardization of analytical methods, research on and application of innovative instrumental techniques) and is involved in many projects, both at national and international level, on sustainable agriculture, soil quality, soil biotechnology, and recently also on products quality.
Contamination of soils and groundwater with petroleum compounds is one of the main environmental problems to be solved. Although hydrocarbons in general are biodegradable, the main limiting factor to their effective and complete degradation is their scarce bioavailability to soil microorganisms, due to limited solubility in aqueous media, especially for high molecular weight compounds.
One technology that has been increasingly developed is bioremediation, especially when treatments are carried out in situ, without physical removal of the contaminated media to another location for treatment. Bioremediation involves the activity of microorganisms, primarily bacteria and fungi, to detoxify environmental pollutants and transform them into simpler, less toxic compounds.
Consortia of oil-degrading bacteria commonly found in petroleum-contaminated soils can be usefully utilized as well as endogenous soil microorganisms. In this context, soil has a double role: it is the compartment to be restored and it is also one of the key components of any bioremediation system.
Since many factors influence the effectiveness of a bioengineered remediation system, including the type and extend of contamination, site characteristics, cleanup goal and economics, it is not possible to apply a single remedial approach to every situation. A proper bioremediation strategy has o take into account the peculiar soil characteristics and the pedoclimatic conditions in which the soil has formed.
The aim of the project is: on one hand to define a functional protocol for a proper bioremediation, enhancing soil quality and its ecological functions, consisting in a hierarchical scale of process knowledge and biodegradation treatments (characterization of chemical physical soil parameters and of microbial community, restoration treatment according to different scale levels, verification of both the time course of the biodegradation process and the effectiveness remediation of ecological functionality of soil compartment). On the other hand the set up and standardization of analytical methods of bioremediation process monitoring.

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