For Whom the Bugs Toil

by John W. Ratz, P.E., (M.ASCE), Project Mgr., Envir. Engr.; Parsons Engineering Sciences, Inc., Denver, CO,
Douglas C. Downey, P.E., Technical Manager; Parsons Engineering Sciences, Inc., Denver, CO,
Edward G. Marchand, Remediation Program Manager; Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence, Brooks AFB, TX,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1997, Vol. 67, Issue 9, Pg. 53-55

Document Type: Feature article


Bioventing is soil ventilation intended to enhance the biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbon contaminants in soils by providing a supply of oxygen. Soil microbes are capable of consuming fuel at an accelerated rate if they are provided with a supply of oxygen. To investigate the feasibility of bioventing at sites across the nation, the U.S. Air Force funded a bioventing initiative that included pilot testing activities at 145 petroleum-contaminated sites across the U.S. To illustrate the successes and shortcomings of the bioventing technology, three case studies from the initiative and follow-up project have been provided: one where regulatory closure was achieved following the test pilot, one where system expansion was required for full-scale treatment following a successful pilot test, and one where bioventing was found to be an inappropriate remediation technology. Measured in terms of cost per square yard, bioventing is significantly lower than that of excavation and disposal, and provides an excellent low-cost technology for the removal of toxic, risk-driving compounds from soil.

Subject Headings: Soil gas | Soil pollution | Oxygen | Site investigation | Case studies | Full-scale tests | Ventilation | Biological processes

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