Evolution of humic acids during ex situ bioremediation on a pilot level – The added value of the microbial activity

Aleksandra N. Žerađanin, Jelena Avdalović, Marija Lješević, Olivera Tešić, Srđan Miletić, Miroslav M. Vrvić, Vladimir Beškoski


Environmental pollution is a global problem, while bioremediation technology removes pollutants from the environment using microorganisms. This study was aimed at investigating how a bioremediation process affected soil humification. In soil polluted with petroleum and its derivatives that was submitted to bioremediation, besides the total petroleum hydrocarbons and the number of microorganisms, quantitative and qualitative changes of iso­lated humic acids were determined during the process. The bioremediation of 150 m3 of polluted soil lasted 150 days. The level of total petroleum hydrocarbons decreased by 86.6 %, while the level of humic acids increased by 26.5 %. The elemental analysis showed the reduction of C and the H/C ratio and the increase of O and the O/C ratio of isolated humic acids during the process. The ratio of absorbencies at 465 and 665 nm also increased. Based on this and the Fourier-transform infra­red spectra, it was shown that the humic acids isolated at the end of biorem­ediation were enriched with oxygen functional groups and aromatic structures. This study provides one of the first insights into the relat­ionship between bio­remediation and humification, as well as evidence of how hydrocarbon-deg­rading microorganisms have a significant influence on changes to humic acid structure during bioremediation.


ediation; humification; total petroleum hydrocarbons


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.2298/JSC190916131Z

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