Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 1759–1768 | Cite as

Bioremediation trial on aged PCB-polluted soils—a bench study in Iceland

  • Taru Lehtinen
  • Anu Mikkonen
  • Bergur Sigfusson
  • Kristín Ólafsdóttir
  • Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir
  • Rannveig Guicharnaud
Research Article


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) pose a threat to the environment due to their high adsorption capacity to soil organic matter, stability and low reactivity, low water solubility, toxicity and ability to bioaccumulate. With Icelandic soils, research on contamination issues has been very limited and no data has been reported either on PCB degradation potential or rate. The goals of this research were to assess the bioavailability of aged PCBs in the soils of the old North Atlantic Treaty Organization facility in Keflavík, Iceland and to find the best biostimulation method to decrease the pollution. The effectiveness of different biostimulation additives (N fertiliser, white clover and pine needles) at different temperatures (10 and 30 °C) and oxygen levels (aerobic and anaerobic) were tested. PCB bioavailability to soil fauna was assessed with earthworms (Eisenia foetida). PCBs were bioavailable to earthworms (bioaccumulation factor 0.89 and 0.82 for earthworms in 12.5 ppm PCB soil and in 25 ppm PCB soil, respectively), with less chlorinated congeners showing higher bioaccumulation factors than highly chlorinated congeners. Biostimulation with pine needles at 10 °C under aerobic conditions resulted in nearly 38 % degradation of total PCBs after 2 months of incubation. Detection of the aerobic PCB degrading bphA gene supports the indigenous capability of the soils to aerobically degrade PCBs. Further research on field scale biostimulation trials with pine needles in cold environments is recommended in order to optimise the method for onsite remediation.


PCB Aerobic bioremediation Anaerobic bioremediation Cold regions Bench study Volcanic soils Bioavailability 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Taru Lehtinen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anu Mikkonen
    • 3
  • Bergur Sigfusson
    • 4
  • Kristín Ólafsdóttir
    • 5
  • Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir
    • 1
  • Rannveig Guicharnaud
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Faculty of Earth SciencesUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesAgricultural University of IcelandBorgarnesIceland
  3. 3.Department of Food and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Reykjavik EnergyReykjavíkIceland
  5. 5.Department of Pharmacology and ToxicologyUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  6. 6.Department of Land ResourcesAgricultural University of IcelandBorgarnesIceland
  7. 7.Land Resource Management Unit, Soil Action, Institute for Environment & Sustainability (IES)European Commission–DG JRCIspraItaly

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