Remediation of a diesel-contaminated soil from a pipeline accidental spill: enhanced biodegradation and soil washing processes using natural gums and surfactants

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Hernández Espriú, Antonio
Sánchez León, Emilio
Torres, Luis G.
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Purpose This paper addresses the application of bioproducts produced by plants (locust bean, guar, and mesquite seed gums) to enhance remediation processes of different nature: soil washing and biodegradation methodologies. Materials and methods These natural gums were tested at laboratory scale to remove total petroleum hydrocarbons-diesel fraction (TPH-diesel) from oil-contaminated volcanic soils sampled from a polluted site in an agricultural area of western Mexico. TPH-diesel removal by natural gums was compared to common synthetic surfactants. Results and discussion There is a strong evidence of contamination caused by the presence of TPH-diesel at a concentration of 32,100 mg/kg, which is above the legal limit of 1,200 mg/kg for agricultural soils in Mexico. Regarding the surfactant soil washing experiments, ionic surfactants showed removal rates above the control test of about 78.51 % (Maranil LAB), 71.27 % (Texapon 40), 60.13 % (SDS), and 48.19 % (Surfacpol G). In contrast, some nonionic surfactants showed removal rates below soil-washing background rate (40 %). On the other hand, natural gums showed interesting and promising results. Guar gum and locust bean gum showed efficiencies of 54.38 % and 53.46 %, respectively. Biodegradation experiments confirmed the effectiveness of natural gums as biodegradation enhancers in diesel-contaminated soils. Specifically, guar gum showed an excellent performance. An 82 % TPH-diesel removal rate was achieved for a very low gum concentration (2 ppm). In this particular context, reported surfactant concentrations to assist biodegradation are, in general, higher. Conclusions This work demonstrated the applicability of natural gums as soil remediation enhancers in diesel-contaminated systems. Particularly, guar gum might represent a cost-effective alternative for biodegradation enhancement processes.