U of S scientists turn to cow waste to clean contaminated gas sites
Scientists and graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan are developing a new soil to clean up spilled oil and gas from gas station sites.
The researchers are planning to add cattle biowaste to soil that will trap and remove petroleum.
“It’s almost like putting the site on an IV, where we give it a low dose of nutrients and other things that will make them happy and they do the work for us,” Derek Peak, a soil scientist at the university, said.
The cattle waste materials will be converted into a water-based material, which will be injected into soil at gas stations and former gas station sites to help bacteria break down the petroleum.
According to the university, more than 30,000 gas station sites across Canada are contaminated. Many of these sites are left abandoned because businesses are reluctant to rebuild on contaminated land.
“It creates a little bit of inertia around these sites where nothing seems to happen, and that’s the biggest challenge we see,” said Lesley Anderson, the City of Saskatoon’s planning and development director.
“Typically what we want to see is that polluter of a site carries forward the risk and are responsible to clean it up. But some of these risks or contaminations happened many years ago where legislation has changed.”
Peak says he hopes the soil development will help clean up brownfields — land previously used by large companies that is polluted by hazardous waste — and make the land useable.
Federated Co-op is set to test the cleanup solution on their fuel stations.
“Historically, the approach to clean up contaminated sites was to come in with a big yellow iron, excavate that material out, haul it out to somewhere else and dispose of it as a waste,” Kris Bradshaw, Co-op’s impacted sites manager, said.
Bradshaw says this new way of treating sites without tearing them apart is an advantage.
The federal government has given $750,000 to the soil research.
If the soil development is successful, it could save the government billions of dollars in remediation costs.
The research will be ongoing for the next three years and is projected to be tested on contaminated gas sites by next year.