Phytoremediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in manufactured gas plant-impacted soil

Thomas Spriggs, Margaret Katherine Banks, Paul Schwab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Contamination of soil by hazardous substances poses a significant threat to human, environmental, and ecological health. Cleanup of the contaminants using destructive, invasive technologies has proven to be expensive and more importantly, often damaging to the natural resource properties of the soil, sediment, or aquifer. Phytoremediation is defined as the cleanup of contaminated sites using plants. There has been evidence of enhanced polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) degradation in rhizosphere soils for a limited number of plants. However, research focusing on the degradation of PAHs in the rhizosphere of trees is lacking. The objective of this study was to assess the potential use of trees to enhance degradation of PAHs located in manufactured gas plant-impacted soils. In greenhouse studies with intact soil cores, acenaphthene, anthracene, fluoranthene, naphthalene, and phenanthrene decreased significantly (p < 0.05) in green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marshall) and hybrid poplar (Populus deltoides × P. nigra DN 34) phytoremediation treatments when compared to the implanted soil control. Increases in PAH microbial degraders in rhizosphere soil were observed when compared to unvegetated soil controls. In addition, the rate of degradation or biotransformation of PAHs was greatest for soils with black willow (Salix nigra Marshall), followed by poplar, ash, and the unvegetated controls. These results support the hypothesis that a variety of plants can enhance the degradation of target PAHs in soil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1755-1762
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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