Solar Energy south american researchers find that earthworms can remediate contaminated soil

Published on December 7th, 2010 | by Tina Casey

12

What a Twist! Earthworms Could Clean Up Toxic Waste

December 7th, 2010 by  

south american researchers find that earthworms can remediate contaminated soilTeams of researchers in Venezuela and Argentina are on the verge of elevating the lowly earthworm to rockstar status when it comes to cleaning up hazardous materials. They are studying the ability of earthworms to remediate soil containing lead, mercury, and other contaminants, and so far the worms seem to be getting the job done.

Worms and Green Remediation

Worms are basically a digestive system that can move about on its own, and humankind has long exploited their capacity for transforming organic matter into rich, nutrient-laden soil through the practice of vermiculture. More recently, at least agricultural operations have begun to adopt vermiculture specifically to prevent piles of rotting food waste from contaminating nearby waterways. This comes close to green remediation, which is the use of alternative techniques to clean up contaminated soil or water, rather than digging out the site, capping it off, or treating it with harsh chemicals.

Worms and Heavy Metals

The new research takes it a step beyond, by using worms to clean up metals and other toxic chemicals. One team used worm-produced soil (vermicompost) to absorb contaminated wastewater that contained nickel, chromium, vanadium, and lead. The other team used a more direct method, setting the earthworms loose on soil contaminated with arsenic and mercury. In both cases, the worms removed a significant amount of the toxins, particularly in the case of arsenic.

Another Tool for Green Remediation

The green remediation workforce is expanding rapidly. Along with worms, microbes are being recruited into the field. New research is yielding other exotic approaches, like “swelling glass” that can soak up pollutants like a sponge, and “hot bubbles” of pressurized ozone gas that break down pollutants.  Meanwhile, the energy needed to run pumps, treatment plants and other remediation equipment is also getting greener, as solar power and other forms of alternative energy are being adopted for site cleanup.

Image: Gummy worms by digipam on flickr.com. 
 
Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”
 
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

 

Tags: , , ,


About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Pingback: How To Recycle Your Phone Correctly | PlanetSave()

  • Pingback: Copper Sucking Corn Cleans Polluted Soil | CleanTechnica()

  • Dukejohns

    So can anyone tell me where to buy earthworms in bulk??
    I do not have any toxic waste, but figure if they can do that, if I could get a bunch of them it would not hurt my lawn and plants.
    Pls advise.
    Respectively,
    Doug Johnston

    • Tina Casey

      If anybody out there has some suggestions for Doug on where to buy earthworms, give us a holler.

      • Chuck Brandt

        Doug, search “vermiculture”, another search phrase would be: earthworm compost, you’ll find some local suppliers.

  • Pingback: Cool Green Morning: Wednesday, December 8 | Cool Green Science: The Conservation Blog of The Nature Conservancy()

  • The basic body plan of an earthworm is a tube, the digestive system, within a tube, the muscular slimy, moist outer body. The body is annular, formed of segments that are most specialized in the anterior. I think their body structure makes the environment green.

  • Hi,
    the listed “contaminants” – nickel, chromium and vanadium are essential micro-nutrients for all living things, without which they would sicken and die. And you can buy them in the nutritional supplements section of all drug stores, either individually, or as part of many multi-mineral and vitamin supplements.
    Arsenic, in micro-miniscule amounts, is also essential. It just isn’t mentioned because of the bad press for arsenic. No one would buy a supplement containing arsenic. Still, it’s essential.

    The only iffy element listed in this article is lead.
    Best regards,
    Peter H. Weis

    • Tina Casey

      Peter: Thanks for putting in a different angle on the subject of contaminants. To clarify, it is true that some substances are harmless, beneficial, or necessary for a healthy existence, but in terms of contamination you really can have too much of a good thing.

      • Hi Tina,

        you are right. We can’t live without iron, but too much iron can kill us. It’s the same story with all the 72 natural trace elements. Without them we sicken and die, and too much will kill us. Vanadium, for instance, is a major and primary factor in the prevention of diabetes. It appears that there is not enough vanadium in our daily food (it’s not being replaced by our modern agriculture). But then there is a valley in India where too much vanadium in the soil is a persistent health problem.
        cheers, Peter;

        • Tina Casey

          Peter, thanks for the additional information!

  • Drew

    Should add Paul Stamet’s work to the list here:
    http://www.fungi.com/mycotech/petroleum_problem.html

    He has some great talks at TED, as well, on the potential use of mushrooms (fungi) for toxic clean up.

Back to Top ↑
  • Advertisements

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Cool Cleantech Events

    Low Voltage Electrification Event, April 25-27. Detroit, Michigan (US)
    Delve deep into the benefits and challenges associated with EV power supply.

    Offshore Wind Market Development USA, May 11-12, Boston, Massachusetts (US)
    Network and establish your business in one of North America’s largest energy industries.

    Energy Storage USA, June 15-16, San Diego, California (US)
    Only event in the United States focused exclusively on the commercialization of storage.

    More details are on: Cleantech Events.

  • Advertisement

  • CleanTechnica Electric Car Report

    Electric Cars Early Adopters First Followers
  • Tesla Model 3 Review by EVANNEX

    Tesla Model 3 Review from EVANNEX
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Video

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Pictures

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model X Review #1 (Video)

    Tesla Model X Review from new owners Zach Shahan
  • Tesla Model X Review #2 (Pictures)

    Tesla Model X Review from Kyle Field
  • Tesla Model S Long-Term Review

    Tesla Model S Long Term Review from Kyle Field
  • Nissan LEAF Long-Term Review

    Nissan LEAF Long Term Review from Cynthia Shahan
  • Interview with Michael Liebreich

    Interview with Michael Liebreich
  • Interview with Akon (Teslas & Solar)

    Interview with Akon Tesla Model S Tesla Model X Solar Power Africa
  • Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany

    Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany
  • Interview with Gro Brundtland

    Gro Brundtland
  • Interview with President of Iceland

    President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
  • Interview with Nick Sampson

    Faraday Future VP Nick Sampson
  • Interview with Dipal Barua

    Dipal Barua 1st ZFEP WInner
  • Interview with Jonathon Porritt

    Jonathon Porritt
  • Interview with Clint Wilder

    Interview with Clint Wilder
  • Interviews with Solar Impulse Pilots

    Bertrand Piccard Andre Borschberg
  • Check out more CleanTechnica Videos.

  • Join The Solar Revolution!

    Edison-solar-energy solar-energy-spill-nice-day
  • Cost of Solar Panels

    cost-of-solar-down
  • Search the IM Network


Shares