Synthetic soils from industrial wastes, Phase II: Health-related analysis of leachates and crops

You are here

Project Period: 
Project Investigator(s): 
L Drake, M Maxwell, Department of Geology, The University of Iowa

The aims of this study were to determine whether bulk municipal and industrial wastes can be blended to create synthetic soils which are not detrimental to human health and which present minimal risks to groundwater quality and natural ecological systems. Such soils could potentially be used to safely reclaim abandoned strip mines. Eighty different blends of synthetic soil were created, and two types of native soils were used as controls. Four annual species of vegetables were grown in pots outdoors utilizing the different soil blends. Experimental results demonstrated that some of the blends of synthetic soil can support good-to-excellent plant growth compared to native soil controls. Quantitative analysis was done on the fruit produced from the plants to assess total weight and total dry weight of the fruit. A follow-up to the study hopes to assess if the longer term responses of perennials to the synthetic soils is similar to short term annuals. Additionally, the ten most promising soils are being leached and evaluated for heavy metals and other parameters relevant to human health.The project has expanded to field scale test plots in an orphan mine in south-central Iowa with additional funding from a National Mine Land Reclamation Center Grant. Cargill Corporation has also agreed to sponsor the project by providing a field test site, machinery, and operators to implement the projects on a field scale.


Ririe GT, Drake LD, Olson SS(1997); Reclamation and groundwater remediation at a hydrocarbon site in Alaska:Petroleum Hydrocarbons and Organic chemicals In Groundwater Conference. A. Stanley, Editor, National Groundwater Assn., 1997; 266-297.