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Suitability of Scirpus maritimus for petroleum hydrocarbons remediation in a refinery environment.

ABSTRACT

In the ambit of a project searching for appropriate biological approaches for recovering a refinery soil contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons (PHC), we compared results obtained in the absence and in the presence of the salt marsh plant Scirpus maritimus or Juncus maritimus or an association of these two plants, which were tested in the refinery environment. Synergistic effects caused by addition of a non-ionic surfactant and/or a bioaugmentation product were also investigated. Major challenges of this study were: field conditions and weathered contamination.Transplants of the plants were carried out in individual containers filled with a weathered contaminated soil, which was recontaminated with turbine oil with two purposes: for increasing PHC level and allowing a comparison of the potential of plants for remediation of ancient and recent contamination.Analysis of total PHC led to the conclusion that, after 24-month exposure, neither J. maritimus nor the association caused any improvement in remediation. In contrast, S. maritimus revealed potential for PHC remediation, favoring degradation of both recent and older contamination (which was refractory to natural attenuation). About 15% of remediation improvement was found in the soil layer with higher root density (5-10 cm). A more marked improvement in that layer (28%) was observed when non-ionic surfactant amendment and bioaugmentation were used jointly.The fact that S. maritimus has demonstrated capability for PHC remediation, leads to admit that it has potential to be also used for recovering sediments that have suffered accidental oil spills.