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University of Arizona

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Superfund Research Program

Biosurfactant-Enhanced Remediation of Metal- Contaminated Soils

Project Leader: Raina M. Maier
Grant Number: P42ES004940
Funding Period: 1995-2010

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Project Summary (1995-2000)

The overall goal of this research is to investigate the potential for enhanced removal of heavy metals from contaminated soils using biosurfactants. A major problem associated with remediating subsurface systems contaminated by heavy metals is the difficulty in delivering the metals to the surface for subsequent treatment. Typically, "pump and treat" remediation does not attain cleanup within predicted timetables due to a "tailing" effect once initial high heavy metal concentrations have been flushed out. Microbially produced surfactants (biosurfactants) have the potential to reduce this tailing effect and hence the amount of water pumped giving rise to a significant cost savings over existing methods. Specific objectives include investigation of biosurfactants for promoting desorption of metals from soil, evaluation of the potential of biosurfactants to facilitate transport of heavy metals through soil, investigation of ex situ and in situ biosurfactant production, and evaluation of the use of biosurfactants at the intermediate and field-scale levels.

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