Bioremediation of explosive contaminated soil
"It has been estimated that there are thousands of explosives-contaminated sites within the United States, and even a greater number in Europe and the Soviet Union."(2) TNT (2,4,6- trinitrotoluene) is one of the most popular explosives used by military forces, and due to improper handling and disposal techniques TNT and its derivatives, have polluted environments to levels that threaten the health of humans, livestock, wildlife and, entire ecosystems. TNT is known to have many health effects on animals as well as humans. As stated by The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, "Workers involved in the production of high explosives experienced many harmful health effects as a result of exposure to 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene at their jobs. These effects included disorders of the blood, such as anemia, and abnormal liver function." (1)
Treatment of the contaminated soil has usually been handled through incineration, which is costly and does not always guarantee that the pollutants have been completely destroyed.
Therefore new techniques such as bioremediation have been developed as a safe cost effective alternative to treating pollutants such as TNT. (3)
Fundamentals of Bioremediation
Bioremediation is a new, efficient, environmentally friendly, and low-cost technology, which uses microorganisms to clean up soil contaminated with heavy metals and organic contaminants such as solvents, crude oil, explosives, and other toxic compounds from contaminated environments.
Bioremediation works by taking complex organic compounds such as TNT, which are made up of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. When combined with regular compost ingredients such as manures, sawdust, straw, and fruit and vegetable processing wastes, the explosives become broken down into harmless chemical forms.(3)
Bioremediation methods are classified into two categories: Composting, and bioslurries.
According to the EPA's Fact Sheet on Composting of Soils Contaminated by Explosives,