Innovative Uses of Compost Bioremediation and Pollution Prevention

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Courtesy of US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

Each year agricultural effluents, industrial residues, and industrial accidents contaminate surface waters, soils, air, streams, and reservoirs. A new compost technology, known as compost bioremediation, is currently being used to restore contaminated soils, manage stormwater, control odors, and degrade volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Compost bioremediation refers to the use of a biological system of micro-organisms in a mature, cured compost to sequester or break down contaminants in water or soil. Micro-organisms consume contaminants in soils, ground and surface waters, and air. The contaminants are digested, metabolized, and transformed into humus and inert byproducts, such as carbon dioxide, water, and salts. Compost bioremediation has proven effective in degrading or altering many types of contaminants, such as chlorinated and nonchlorinated hydrocarbons, wood-preserving chemicals, solvents, heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum products, and explosives. Compost used in bioremediation is referred to as “tailored” or “designed” compost in that it is specially made to treat specific contaminants at specific sites.

The ultimate goal in any remediation project is to return the site to its precontamination condition, which often includes revegetation to stabilize the treated soil. In addition to reducing contaminant levels, compost advances this goal by facilitating plant growth. In this role, compost provides soil conditioning and also provides nutrients to a wide variety of vegetation.

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