Remediation of metal-contaminated soil and sludge using biosurfactant technology

R. M. Maier, J. W. Neilson, J. F. Artiola, F. L. Jordan, E. P. Gleen, S. M. Descher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Development of environmentally benign approaches to remediation of metal-contaminated soils and sewage sludges are needed to replace currently used techniques of either landfilling or metal extraction using caustic or toxic agents. We report results from four application technologies that use a metal-chelating biosurfactant, rhamnolipid, for removal of metals or metal-associated toxicity from metal-contaminated waste. The four applications include: 1) removal of metals from sewage sludge; 2) removal of metals from historically contaminated soils; 3) combined biosurfactant/phytoremediation of metal-contaminated soil; and 4) use of biosurfactant to facilitate biodegradation of the organic component of a metal-organic co-contaminated soil (in this case the biosurfactant reduces metal toxicity). These four technologies are nondestructive options for situations where the final goal is the removal of bioavailable and leachable metal contamination while maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Some of the approaches outlined may require multiple treatments or long treatment times which must be acceptable to site land-use plans and to the stakeholders involved. However, the end-product is a soil, sediment, or sludge available for a broad range of land use applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-248
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Biosurfactant
  • Metals
  • Remediation
  • Rhamnolipid
  • Soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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