Phytoremediation of aged petroleum sludge: Effect of inorganic fertilizer

S. L. Hutchinson, M. K. Banks, A. P. Schwab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


Phytoremediation is a promising new technology that uses higher plants to enhance biodegradation. Nutrient availability is an important factor governing the success of phytoremediation and can be regulated through the addition of fertilizer. A greenhouse study was conducted to assess the importance of nitrogen and phosphorus for the phytoremediation of petroleum sludge. Degradation of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) was quantified for six fertilization rates and three vegetation treatments: bermuda grass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pets.], tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), and an unvegetated control. During the first 6 mo of the experiment, TPH declined by an average of 49% with no significant differences between treatments. After 1 yr, TPH degradation was significantly greater in both vegetated treatments with a mean TPH reduction of 68% for bermuda, 62% for fescue, and 57% for the unvegetated control. Degradation of TPH in the fescue and bermuda treatments was significantly lower in the treatments in which no fertilizer was added or N and P were added simply to maintain plant growth compared with the higher rates of fertilization. For this short-term, greenhouse experiment, optimal remediation was obtained by fertilization that produced a C to N to P ratio of 100:2:0.2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-403
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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