Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable



Landfarming is a full-scale bioremediation technology, which usually incorporates liners and other methods to control leaching of contaminants, which requires excavation and placement of contaminated soils, sediments, or sludges. Contaminated media is applied into lined beds and periodically turned over or tilled to aerate the waste.

Soil conditions are often controlled to optimize the rate of contaminant degradation. Conditions normally controlled include:

  • Moisture content (usually by irrigation or spraying).
  • Aeration (by tilling the soil with a predetermined frequency, the soil is mixed and aerated).
  • pH (buffered near neutral pH by adding crushed limestone or agricultural lime).
  • Other amendments (e.g., Soil bulking agents, nutrients, etc.).

Contaminated media is usually treated in lifts that are up to 18 inches thick. When the desired level of treatment is achieved, the lift is removed and a new lift is constructed. It may be desirable to only remove the top of the remediated lift, then construct the new lift by adding more contaminated media to the remaining material and mixing. This serves to inoculate the freshly added material with an actively degrading microbial culture, and can reduce treatment times.

Landfarming is a medium- to long-term technology.


Ex situ landfarming has been proven most successful in treating petroleum hydrocarbons. Because lighter, more volatile hydrocarbons such as gasoline are treated very successfully by processes that use their volatility (i.e., soil vapor extraction), the use of aboveground bioremediation is usually limited to heavier hydrocarbons. As a rule of thumb, the higher the molecular weight (and the more rings with a PAH), the slower the degradation rate. Also, the more chlorinated or nitrated the compound, the more difficult it is to degrade. (Note: Many mixed products and wastes include some volatile components that transfer to the atmosphere before they can be degraded.)

Contaminants that have been successfully treated using landfarming include diesel fuel, No. 2 and No. 6 fuel oils, JP-5, oily sludge, wood-preserving wastes (PCP and creosote), coke wastes, and certain pesticides.


Factors that may limit the applicability and effectiveness of the process include:

  • A large amount of space is required.
  • Conditions affecting biological degradation of contaminants (e.g., temperature, rain fall) are largely uncontrolled, which increases the length of time to complete remediation.
  • Inorganic contaminants will not be biodegraded.
  • Volatile contaminants, such as solvents, must be pretreated because they would volatilize into the atmosphere, causing air pollution.
  • Dust control is an important consideration, especially during tilling and other material handling operations.
  • Runoff collection facilities must be constructed and monitored.
  • Topography, erosion, climate, soil stratigraphy, and permeability of the soil at the site must be evaluated to determine the optimum design of facility.
  • Waste constitutes may be subject to 'Land-ban' regulation and thus may not be applied to soil for treatment by landfarming (e.g., some petroleum sludges).

Data Needs

The following contaminant considerations should be addressed prior to implementation: types and concentrations of contaminants, depth profile and distribution of contaminants, presence of toxic contaminants, presence of VOCs, and presence of inorganic contaminants (e.g., metals).

The following site and soil considerations should be addressed prior to implementation: surface geological features (e.g., topography and vegetative cover), subsurface geological and hydrogeological features, temperature, precipitation, wind velocity and direction, water availability, soil type and texture, soil moisture content, soil organic matter content, cation exchange capacity, water-holding capacity, nutrient content, pH, atmospheric temperature, permeability, and microorganisms (degradative populations present at site).

Performance Data

Numerous full-scale operations have been used, particularly for sludges produced by the petroleum industry. As with other biological treatments, under proper conditions, landfarming can transform contaminants into nonhazardous substances. Removal efficiencies, however, are a function of contaminant type and concentrations, soil type, temperature, moisture, waste loading rates, application frequency, aeration, volatilization, and other factors.


Ranges of costs likely to be encountered are:

  • Costs prior to treatment (assumed to be independent of volume to be treated): $25,000 to $50,000 for laboratory studies; $100,000 to $500,000 for pilot tests or field demonstrations.
  • Cost of prepared bed (ex situ treatment and placement of soil on a prepared liner): Under $100 per cubic meter (under $75 per cubic yard)

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