SoilSoc Research

Research projects Thesis abstracts

Bioremediation trial on PCB polluted soils in Iceland

Institute / Organisation / Unit: Agricultural University of Iceland (, University of Iceland (, Reykjavík Energy ( and the University of Helsinki (

Research director / Project Leader / Student Supervision: Dr. Rannveig Anna Guicharnaud Agricultural University of Iceland and Dr. Bergur Sigfússon Reykjavík Energy.

Other researchers: Dr. Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir University of Iceland and Anu Mikkonen University of Helsinki.

M.Sc. Student responsible: Taru Lehtinen (starting date in Autumn 2008)

Discription: Soils of today are under pressure of various pollutants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that are mixtures of compounds that have 1 to 10 chlorine atoms in two C-C bound aromatic rings. Characteristics of PCBs are toxicity, ability to bioaccumulate, stability and low reactivity, low water solubility and high adsorption capacity to soil organic matter. The NATO facility and United States Naval Air Station Keflavík was situated at Keflavík International Airport on the Reykjanes Peninsula from World War II until the fall of 2006, after which a number of pollutants were documented in the surrounding environment. Almenna Verkfrćđistofan has estimated the extent and scale of PCB contaminated soils in an area formerly occupied by Sala Varnarliđseigna, dividing the polluted areas into three categories: > 50 ppm PCB, 1-50 ppm PCB and < 1 ppm PCB. This research intends to propose a framework of protocols that can be adapted to bioremediate Icelandic soils that exhibit PCB contamination in a sustainable manner. No data exist, neither on PCB degradation rates nor PCB degrading bacteria in Icelandic soils, and very limited research exists on contamination issues in Icelandic soils. The methodology consists of a bioremediation trial, including both anaerobic and aerobic treatments. A preliminary study with 12 biostimulation treatments, including nutrient addition, plant rests and plant roots, is currently carried out in the lab. The most effective treatments will be further investigated in a secondary laboratory experiment. Furthermore a small-scale field experiment will be set up in Keflavík, if the laboratory experiments yield positive results, More in depth analyzes of soil microbiology, a DNA based community fingerprinting technique LH-PCR (length heterogeneity polymerase chain reaction), has been carried out at the University of Helsinki in order to study the soil bacterial population. The aerobic and anaerobic PCB degraders were also investigated. In addition the bioavailability of PCBs in soil to earthworms will be determined.