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SIRCA digs into soil clean-up research with new funding

May 3, 2017

Funding announced this week will help SIRCA members develop and test a new way to clean up the soil at former gas stations.

Biowaste from a cattle processing plant is being converted into a water-based, nutrient-rich material to be injected into the ground to aid in the digestion of petroleum hydrocarbons by soil-based organisms. The project is a collaboration between the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) and UFA, all members of the Sustainable In-Situ Remediation Co-operative Alliance (SIRCA).

“We’re developing new phosphorous-rich materials to help bacteria and fungi in the ground consume hydrocarbon pollutants,” U of S soil scientist Derek Peak. “These materials will enable us to treat contaminated soil right at the site rather than excavating the soil to process it. This could cut remediation costs in half.”

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) will provide $750,000 over three years through its College-University Idea to Innovation (CU-I2I) grant, which aims to develop and apply research and technology between colleges, universities and businesses. FCL and UFA are jointly providing an additional $75,000 cash and $337,500 in-kind contribution. 

“Through SIRCA, we’re able to take innovative technologies from concept to reality, from the lab to real-world application,” said Vic Huard, Executive Vice-President of Strategy at Federated Co-operatives Limited. “Not only are we building sustainable solutions to lessen our impact on the environment and improve our communities, we are sharing this knowledge in the spirit of co-operation.”

The partners will make new compounds at NAIT, evaluate them at U of S laboratories and the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, and then pilot-test the soil additives at two sites in Stony Plain, Alta.

“Remedial approaches have real and measurable sustainability benefits over traditional excavation-based approaches,” said Kris Bradshaw, FCL’s Impacted Sites Manager. “This research will ultimately help us and others manage the vast array of impacted sites in Canada and around the world.”

The innovative project will also create a training agreement program between the U of S and NAIT: two U of S PhD students will serve as mentors to NAIT students and U of S students will have the opportunity to work with highly specialized tools at NAIT.

SIRCA was formed in 2014 to bring together researchers, co-operatives and industry to advance research activities and remediation technologies. Previous funding of $1 million from NSERC and $1 million from FCL established an industrial research chair at the U of S in 2015 in support of SIRCA research. More information on the SIRCA initiative is available at www.sirca.coop