Over the last five years, USask soil scientist and Industrial Research Chair (IRC) Steve Siciliano and his team have developed techniques that can reduce hydrocarbons in the soil by more than 90 per cent.
Now, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and FCL are each providing $1.25 million to renew the five-year term to build on this success and further optimize soil remediation approaches.
“The overall goal of this innovative research program is to improve how we clean up and manage these impacted sites in a safe and sustainable manner,” said Siciliano.
“Over the next five years, we will further develop and validate our approach of using naturally occurring biological stimulants and nutrients to further increase hydrocarbon degradation, particularly at sites where traditional approaches have proven ineffective, and reduce hydrocarbons in soil to minimal levels.”
Canada has more than 30,000 sites contaminated with hydrocarbons or other pollutants. These sites pose significant social and economic costs to cities, towns, and villages.
NSERC and FCL invested a combined $2 million during the IRC’s five-year first term (2015-2020). Researchers introduced environmentally friendly solutions to impacted soils to stimulate microbial populations that naturally break down petroleum molecules.
The traditional method of cleanup involves excavating impacted soils and relocating them to a landfill or treatment site. Reducing contamination on site is safer, cheaper and more sustainable as the environment is not disturbed and existing business can continue without disruption.
“The research has proven to be successful and FCL has already applied the findings outside of the initial six locations,” said FCL’s Vice-President of Strategy Pam Skotnitsky. “Our investment demonstrates our responsibility and commitment to the overall health and well-being of our communities. We continue to work together with our academic and industry partners to find innovative solutions that are openly shared and have long-term, widespread benefits.”
IRCs are funded jointly by NSERC and industry and must be in an area of high priority for both the university and the industrial partner. The funding supports salaries for students and other research personnel, equipment and materials.
“NSERC is proud to support research endeavours aimed at creating a better future for all Canadians,” said NSERC Vice-President (Research Partnerships) Marc Fortin. “This renewed collaboration will support the development of new techniques to remove hydrocarbon pollution from the soil of contaminated sites, resulting in cleaner soils across our country. This research will allow Dr. Siciliano and his team to continue to be leaders in the field of soil remediation, and create positive impacts on our environment.”
In addition to its share of the matched funding, FCL will provide $1.9 million of in-kind support. USask in-kind contributions include $1 million. More than 50 USask undergraduate and graduate students will contribute to the research.