Getting the lead out

December 18, 2000

Scientists at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, a research unit of the University of Georgia, have found that a compound derived by simple enzymatic conversion from starch is successful in laboratory studies in assisting with the extraction of certain underground contaminants.

The highly weathered soils and sediments of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, that are commonly found in South Carolina, are very sandy with little organic matter, clay, and high iron content. This helps limit the physical movement of contaminants in the soil, but alone this containment is not enough to meet regulatory limits.

Author Vijay Vulava says, "Several contaminants move unhindered in these soil materials due to their rather unique clay mineralogy. We need such benign chemicals that can aid ground water remediation efforts without further mitigating the problem."

Contaminant extraction poses numerous problems including cost and finding chemical agents which will have a strong affinity for the contaminant in question, without being itself toxic. Such agents would also have to biodegrade quickly.

In previous studies, the chemicals used by scientists Vulava and co-author John Seaman showed little impact on the soil but they did increase the leachability of several organic contaminants such as DDT, tricholorbenzene and others. In the latest study, published in the journal Environmental Science Technology, the addition of these chemicals to the water used in pump-and-treat extraction methods that can enhance the removal of lead from the surface soil.

The reason the extraction works may be that the enzymatic compound may target the contaminant metal that is specifically associated with certain reactive fractions of the soil. The two soil materials used in the study were representative of the Southeastern Atlantic Coastal Plain.
-end-
Contacts:

Rosemary Forrest
Public Relations Coordinator
803-725-2473


Marie Hamilton
Public Information Specialist
803-725-9724


John Seaman- 803-725-0977

Vijay Vulava - 803-725-2907

DOE/Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

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