Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2013-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $16,113 Total Non-Federal Funds: $6,083
Principal Investigators: Silke Schiewer, Mary Leigh
Abstract: Spills of fuel and other chemicals in remote Alaskan villages can lead to contamination of groundwater and surface water and adversely impact the health of local residents if left untreated. Removal to specialized treatment facilities is often not feasible due to logistical issues. Microbial bioremediation and phytoremediation, involving e.g. fertilization and planting of willow trees, can be appropriate simple, low cost, and low maintenance treatment methods. As an example, this project focuses on contaminated sites in Kaltag, a village on the Yukon River, where high diesel range organics (DRO) concentrations (often exceeding 10000 mg/kg) in combination with contamination by 1-chloro-octadecane are present in close proximity of the school, adjacent to the Yukon River. The proposed research is a treatability study, where a variety of parameters and additives will be investigated in laboratory-based soil microcosms to identify promising approaches for enhancing bioremediation applications in Alaskan villages. Effects of temperature, fertilization, and addition of salicylic acid and crushed willow roots (to simulate the impact of willow root system in phytoremediation) will be studied, and the impact on microbial numbers, microbial community structure, and contaminant levels will be evaluated. This study is integrated with ongoing efforts of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to assess, contain and treat soil contamination in Kaltag, as well as with proposed research to do a field phytoremediation study using willows, with involvement of Kaltag residents. Results of the research will be beneficial for application in villages across Alaska which face similar issues. Implementation of bioremediation systems can help reduce pollution of surface and groundwater as well as exposure of residents to toxic substances.