Our soil-testing studies originated from the need for soil toxicity data to support ecological risk assessments of sites on the Oak Ridge Reservation and the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Kentucky. Other sponsors became interested in these capabilities. For the Department of Defense, we developed multi-species tests to assess the biological quality of composted explosives-contaminated sediment (Gunderson et al. 1997). To assist the Petroleum Environmental Research Forum, the Department of Energy’s National Petroleum Technology Office provided funding for us to use novel analysis methods (Napolitano et al. 1998), seed germination tests and earthworm tests to characterize petroleum-contaminated soils. We are now investigating the linkages between vegetation and soil invertebrates, with the objective being to develop a means to hasten the ecological recovery of biotreated oily soils (Figure 1). Relationships between tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and an earthworm (Eisenia fetida) were studied for this purpose (Humphries et al., 2001) (Figure 2).


The biological quality of oily soil from a petroleum land-farming operation in Rangely, Colorado (Figure 1) can be improved by organic amendments such as manures or straw.


Gunderson, C.A., J.M. Kostuk, M.H. Gibbs, G.E. Napolitano, L.F. Wicker, J.E. Richmond, and A.J. Stewart. 1997. Multi-species toxicity assessment of compost produced in bioremediation of an explosives-contaminated sediment. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 16:2529-2537.

Humphries, S.S., K.D. Gwinn, and A.J. Stewart. 2001. Effects of endophyte status of tall fescue tissues on the earthworm, Eisenia fetida. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 20(6):(in press).

Napolitano, G.E., J.E. Richmond, and A.J. Stewart. 1998. Characterization of petroleum-contaminated soils by thin-layer chromatography with flame ionization detection. J. Soil Contam. 7:709-724.


Figure 1

Figure 1. A petroleum landfarming operation in northwestern Colorado. The dark-colored soil has been biotreated to lower the concentration of petroleum hydrocarbons to permitted levels, but hydrocarbon residuals may still curtail the rate or extent of ecological recovery.

Figure 2

Figure 2.

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Last Modified: April 17, 2001