A new research partnership among the University of Saskatchewan, SIAST and Federated Co-operatives Ltd. (FCL) promises to help make it easier to clean up contaminated soil at former gas station sites. Researchers will explore how to advance techniques that use naturally occurring bacteria and fungi to break down hydrocarbons in the soil, for example at old filling stations or fuel depots where oil, diesel fuel and gasoline have been spilled.
“This collaborative research and training project will provide a new cost-effective approach to bio-remediation (clean-up) of petroleum-impacted soils with less disruption to surrounding business than excavation-based clean-up s,” said U of S soil scientist Steven Siciliano. These contaminated locations are called “brownfield” sites, and there are about 30,000 of them in Canada. The bacteria and fungi-based clean-up methods, previously developed by FCL in collaboration with U of S soil scientists, promise to reduce clean-up costs at these sites by more than 30 per cent.
Traditional clean-up methods are costly, involving digging up contaminated soils and moving them to a landfill or treatment facility. The site cannot be used during the clean-up process, and it creates some risk of exposing people to contamination. Siciliano and U of S colleagues Richard Farrell and Derek Peak will provide expertise and advanced techniques to adapt and refine the technology, while the SIAST BioScience Applied Research Centre (SBARC) lab will evaluate its application across many sites.
“The laboratory will develop and test lab-based models for the remediation technology,” said Blaine Chartrand, principal investigator at SBARC. Chartrand explained that the U of S graduate students will gain practical knowledge from the SIAST students, while the SIAST students will gain fundamental science knowledge from their university peers. Eighteen SIAST students, three U of S PhD students, and one U of S post-doctoral fellow will contribute to the research at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, the SIAST lab, U of S laboratories, and former Co-op gas station sites.
The research is backed by a $750,000 grant over three years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). FCL is also providing the team with $60,000 cash and $435,000 in-kind contributions. “FCL is pleased to build upon its remediation research through this collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan and SIAST,” said Trevor Carlson, FCL’s Environmental Affairs Director. “This technology will enable FCL to remediate contaminated sites without negatively impacting the environment, transferring contaminated soil to a landfill or disrupting business activities on site.”