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Converting wasteland into wonderland by earthworms—a low-cost nature’s technology for soil remediation: a case study of vermiremediation of PAHs contaminated soil

Abstract

Earthworms in general are tolerant to many chemical contaminants including heavy metals and organic pollutants in soil and can bio-accumulate them in their tissues. Earthworms species like Eisenia fetida, Eisenia tetraedra, Lumbricus terrestris, Lumbricus rubellus and Allobophora chlorotica have been found to remove heavy metals (Cd, Pb, Cu, Hg, etc.) pesticides and lipophilic organic micropollutants like the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from the soil. They ‘absorb’ the dissolved chemicals through the moist ‘body wall’ in the interstitial water and also ‘ingest’ by mouth while the soil passes through the gut. They either ‘bio-transform’ or ‘biodegrade’ the chemical contaminants rendering them harmless in their bodies. Meanwhile the quality of the soil is improved significantly in terms of physical, chemical and biological properties as the worms thoroughly upturn and disperse the soil, ingest large volumes of soil and excrete nutritive materials (NKP and micronutrients) in the form of ‘vermicasts’ along with millions of beneficial soil microbes including nitrogen fixers.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to Prof. Bofo Yu (HOS of Environmental Engineering and former Director of CESR at Griffith University), Prof. Roger Braddock and Roger Cropp (past and present Directors of CESR), for providing the financial support to carry out the research program. We also thank Jane Giffkins and Michelle in the PC 2 lab for providing the laboratory support and Ehrsam Werner for providing space in the PC 2 lab. Gokul Bharambe deserves special credit for drawing the graphs.

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Correspondence to Rajiv K. Sinha.

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Sinha, R.K., Bharambe, G. & Ryan, D. Converting wasteland into wonderland by earthworms—a low-cost nature’s technology for soil remediation: a case study of vermiremediation of PAHs contaminated soil. Environmentalist 28, 466–475 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10669-008-9171-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10669-008-9171-7

Keywords

  • Vermiremediation technology using earthworms
  • Earthworms convert wasteland into wonderland
  • PAH—carcinogenic, mutagenic and immunodepressive chemical
  • Earthworms—a soil detoxifying agent
  • Earthworms bio-accumulate, biodegrade and bio-transform chemicals