Washing pollutants out of soil

VeruTEK Technologies has developed an innovative method to destroy industrial pollution in soil without having to excavate.

They inject a biodegradable “soap” into the soil. Within a few weeks, it breaks down the contaminant into molecules which are then infused with oxygen. The result is carbon dioxide and oxygen, and the soil no longer polluted. Independent tests show that it works.

  • Joe Hartley

    And your analysis of the carbon footprint of this method?

  • DJ

    “We currently have six `remedies’ that we believe work for specific types of hazardous waste,” including coal tars, petroleum byproducts and chemical solvents… [end quote]

    So it doesn’t actually remove the contaminants, it destroys them– but only certain types. From the article it appears that the process would work on petroleum-based pollution, of which there is plenty.

    Again based on what little the article says, this process would not work on contaminants like PCBs, heavy metals, and radioactive compounds, since these cannot be converted to CO2. They don’t say whether it would work on chlorine and phosphorus compounds like herbicides and pesticides, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t, again because its function is to break carbon compounds into CO2, and where would the chlorine/phosphorus go?

    The process could open a whole new era of eliminating pollution from petroleum compounds (though as Joe alludes, converting petroleum to CO2 is exactly what an internal combustion engine does). But it doesn’t sound like a silver bullet for all soil pollution.

  • Joe Hartley

    Without spending more time than I have on the mechanistic pathways, it’s not impossible that they have ways of breaking apart pesticides, which are usually organophosphates, usually chlorinated as well. It’s been a while since I looked at the structures of nerve gas (which is basically what pesticides are, and which is why, when the American troops in Iraq in 2003 were getting positive “tests” for nerve gas, they were usually along side pesticide factories…duh!), but it’s far from impossible that you couldn’t break a more complex compound down into something simpler. In theory, you could take the phosphates down to some sort of phosphate that would act as fertilizer. (Unlikely, but who knows?)

    The real problem would be what you would do with the chlorine. It’s unlike to be released as a chlorine molecule unless there’s enormous pressure, heat, and nothing around to react with, none of which are likley in the soils in question. So you end up with some kind of organic halide, all of which are quite nasty. Imagine replacing a pesticide-laden area with one impregnated with carbon tetrachloride….not necessarily an improvement!

    The interesting thing about this tout is to remind us that human beings do NOT what to believe in the laws of thermodynamics!

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