The bioremediation process helps facility managers, clean-up specialists, and business owners working in heavy industry to effectively remove contaminants from the soil. But bioremediation costs can be high, so it’s important to remain aware of the different price factors involved.
With this in mind, let’s explore some of those price factors in greater detail. This will help you to plan your bioremediation project and achieve full regulatory compliance and eco-sustainability without breaking your budget.
Overall Bioremediation Cost Ranges
The general cost range for a bioremediation project can be quite broad, and this shows how important it is to carefully plan and monitor the process as it unfolds. According to the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable, costs vary between $30 per cubic meter (or $20 per cubic yard) to $100 per cubic meter ($80 per cubic yard).
While this difference of $70 may not seem like much at the outset, extrapolating this out across large volumes of soil dramatically increases the variation in expense. This is why it is so important for industrial facilities to keep track of bioremediation costs.
Factors That Influence the Cost of Bioremediation
When planning a bioremediation project, it’s crucial to remain aware of the following cost factors.
The Type of Soil
Research conducted by scientists from the University of Kerman in Iran suggests that soil type has a huge role to play in the efficiency of a bioremediation process – and therefore also influences the cost of the process. The study found that sandy soil provided the best basis for bioremediation, and 70% of the control hydrocarbons were removed from the sample during the treatment phase.
The clay soil sample was the most difficult to remediate, and only 23.5% of the contaminants were removed during the experiment. This suggests that clay soils will require additional treatments, or a more intensive course of bioremediation, increasing the expense significantly.
The Soil Chemistry
It’s also important to consider the chemical makeup of the soil. For example, studies have found that bioremediation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAHs) was most efficient with a neutral pH soil sample. A pH of 7.5 was identified as being the most suitable. The presence of oxygen in the soil may also increase the efficiency and therefore decrease the cost of the bioremediation process.
The Amendments Deployed
Amendments may be added to the soil to accelerate the bioremediation process. These amendments – which may include biosolids, organic waste or manure – will need to be sourced, handled and deployed at the site. This will add to the cost of the procedure. Costs are proportional to the sourcing price of the amendments used, as well as the volume of amendments required, to achieve the desired results.
The Type of Contamination
Bioremediation relies upon microorganisms that can digest the hydrocarbons or other contaminants within the soil. With this in mind, different types of contaminants may be easier, or more difficult, to remove via this process. Unusual types of contaminants may need further research, as teams seek to determine which method and microorganisms are best suited to their removal. This will contribute significantly to the bioremediation cost associated with the project.
Some bioremediation projects may need to be carried out ex-situ – i.e., the soil is removed from the site and taken to a specific location or facility for treatment. This may increase the cost and complexity of the project. In most cases, it is better to handle the bioremediation on an in-situ basis, without leaving the site of the contamination.
The Severity of the Contamination
If contaminants are highly concentrated within the soil, they may be more difficult to remove through the process of bioremediation. A more intensive procedure may be necessary, and these processes may need to be repeated several times to achieve the desired level of contamination removal.
The Bioremediation Technique Used
There are a number of different bioremediation techniques available to facility managers and clean-up specialists. These include:
- Land Venting Treatment – This method involves strict control of the environmental conditions of the soil. Researchers from the Indonesia Defense University cited this method as the most cost-effective.
- Bio-cell Treatment – Typically an ex-situ method of bioremediation, in which soil is aerated and treated to increase microorganism activity, bio-cell treatment is not cost-effective for larger areas or larger concentrations of contamination.
- Composite Treatment – This is a method that involves two or more bioremediation materials combined together to form a composite. This may be a complex task that requires additional research, contributing to the cost.
- Bio Venting Treatment – This refers to the use of local microorganisms that digest organic contaminants and may not be suitable for non-organic contamination zones.
- Bio Slurry Treatment – A liquified slurry is created in this method, which is intended to accelerate the decomposition of contaminants. The liquefaction process may be costly.
- Phytoremediation Treatment – This is the absorption of contaminants and pollutants by plant matter. This may typically be a more complex, and therefore more costly, alternative to standard soil bioremediation.
Understanding Costs and Weighing the Advantages
Costs are always high on the agenda when it comes to business planning, and bioremediation is no exception. All of the above cost factors need to be taken into account to ensure ongoing sustainability and viability for the project.
However, it’s also important to consider the advantages, as well as the cost of the alternative. Contamination can result in significant expenses of other types:
- Contamination can make an industrial site unusable.
- The facility may be held legally responsible for pollution and contamination if the area is left untreated.
- Regulatory bodies may impose fines if contamination is not dealt with.
- Contamination problems may harm relationships with clients and partners, which may result in lost revenue.
- Other forms of treatment are not free either and will carry their own costs.
With this in mind, bioremediation is still a useful process for businesses and industrial facilities looking to reduce their impact on the environment and increase their eco-sustainability. However, a clear-eyed and measured approach is critical to ensure that costs do not spiral out of control.