Effectiveness of phytoremediation as a secondary treatment for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in composted soil

Zakia D. Parrish, M. Katherine Banks, A. Paul Schwab

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86 Scopus citations


A greenhouse study was conducted over a 12-month period to investigate the fate of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soil using phytoremediation as a secondary treatment. The soil was pretreated by composting for 12 weeks, then planted with tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), and yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis). Two sets of unvegetated controls also were evaluated, one fertilized and one unfertilized. Total PAH concentrations decreased in the tall fescue, annual ryegrass, and yellow sweet clover treatments by 23.9%, 15.3%, and 9.1%, respectively, whereas the control was reduced by less than 5%. The smaller two- and most of the three-ringed compounds - naphthalene, acenaphthylene, acenaphthene, fluorene, and anthracene - were not found in detectable concentrations in any of the treatments. The most probable number analysis for microbial PAH degraders did not show any statistically significant differences among treatments. There were significant differences among treatments (p < 0.05) for the residual concentrations of five of the target PAHs. Root surface area measurements indicated that tall fescue and annual ryegrass both had significantly higher root surface area than yellow sweet clover, although the two species were not significantly different from each other. The tall fescue treatment resulted in the highest root and shoot biomass, followed by annual ryegrass and yellow sweet clover, and also had the highest percent of contaminant removal after 12 months. These results imply a positive relationship between plant biomass development and PAH biodegradation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Phytoremediation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004


  • Bacteria
  • Biodegradation
  • Biomass
  • Bioremediation
  • Compost
  • Microorganisms
  • Phytoremediation
  • Plants
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Rhizosphere
  • Soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Plant Science


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