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Surfactant Desorbtion Of Organic Soil Contamination for Remediation


The sorption of contaminants to soil minerals and soil organic matter greatly impacts remediation efforts.  Tightly sorbed contaminants are not chemically accessible for oxidation treatments or bioavailable for natural attenuation or bioremediation.

Hydrophobic organic contaminants such as PAHs and TPH primarily sorb to soil organic matter (SOM) because SOM is less polar than water and therefore more attractive to these nonpolar contaminant species than surrounding groundwater.  Hydrophobic species bond to SOM primarily through van der Waals-type interactions or ‘‘hydrophobic bonding’’.  Depending on the size and nature of the hydrophobic contaminant pore size, competitive ‘pore blocking’ with other organic species and π-π interactions may also influence sorption. (ZHIFENG YANG, 2011)

Though the percent of SOM is the most important factor in determining the degree of hydrophobic contaminant sorption other elements of soil composition are important. Soil containing greater ratio of humin to humic acid will sorb more than a soil with equivalent SOM and a lower ratio. Minerals in soil can block absorption sites by attracting polar water molecules or change the shape of the absorption site and limit organic contaminant absorption. (Guangzhi Zhanga, 2012)

Sites with high soil organic matter and hydrophobic contamination are prone to difficulties with chemical oxidation both because dissolved phase contamination will be oxidized before sorbed contamination and soil organic matter will increase oxidant demand.   (Ian L. Pepper, 2006)

The most well known example is the hydrophobic pesticide 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(pchlorophenyl)-ethane (DDT)  and its metabolites 1,1-dichloro- 2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-ethane (DDD) and 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(pchlorophenyl)-ethylene (DDE). Despite that fact that DDT is very biodegradable it has persisted in the environment decades after the original releases. DDT has very low solubility in water so a large fraction remains sorbed to soil organic matter or solid material. Surfactants can be used to bring DDT into the aqueous phase and facilitate bioremediation but without such a tool break down is limited. (Glenn W. Walters, 2001)

Polar contaminants such as phenols do not sorb as tightly because they develop a slight negative charge in the aqueous phase and the soil sediments typically also have a slight negative charge.  However if site soils are rich in positively charged metal oxides even polar compounds may sorb through electrostatic interactions.  (Ian L. Pepper, 2006)

If chemical oxidation is applied at a site with sorbed organic contamination groundwater concentrations of the contaminant will be reduced but over the following months additional contamination will leach from the soil back into the groundwater.  This “rebound” leads to multiple expensive injections to maintain low groundwater concentrations.  Chemical oxidation can destroy the soil organic matter that binds contamination to the soil and therefore remove desorb some contamination from soils, but this method of desorbing contamination is not very cost effective as it requires oxidant dosing amounts much greater than generally used in remediation.

Surfactants are a more cost effective tool for desorbing contamination. Surfactant mixtures can be used to desorb and solubilize a range of organic contaminants from soil including even highly hydrophobic compounds like PAHs and some pesticides.  Once the contamination has been released it can be addressed by several remediation methods including bioremediation, recovery or chemical oxidation.   Selecting the right surfactants for desorption is important because the hydrophobic moiety of the surfactant must be matched to the organic contaminant of concern and the surfactant must be evaluated with site soil to ensure it will not sorb to soil and increase oxidant demand. 

Combining rigorously screened and tested surfactants with chemical oxidants in the patented process known as Surfactant enhanced In Situ Chemical Oxidation or S-ISCO allows for rapid desorption and destruction of sorbed organic contaminants.

The chart below shows how surfactants can be used to bring PAHs from the soil in the aqueous phase.  Without surfactant almost all of the PAH fraction is sorbed to soil, but the VeruSOL surfactants bring PAHs into the aqueous phase where it is available for destruction by chemical oxidants. In this example VeruSOL-10 was selected as the best surfactant to use during S-ISCO application because it desorbed almost all the PAH contamination from the soil. View Case Studies >>


 AqueousPhaseConcentrations resized 600


Without the use of surfactant chemical oxidation on sites contaminated with PAHs such as Manufactured Gas Plant sites would impractical due to rebound.  By desorbing contamination S-ISCO over comes this difficulty and addresses contamination sorbed to soil and in the groundwater at the same time.

If you have any questions pertaining to the information in this article please feel free to contact us by clicking to Ask the Author. 

Works Cited

Glenn W. Walters, M. D. (2001). Surfactant-Enhanced Solubilization and Anaerobic Biodegradation of 1,1,1-Trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-ethane (DDT) in Contaminated Soil. Water Environment Research , Volume 73, Number 1, pp. 15-23(9).

Guangzhi Zhanga, W. S. (2012). Sorption of phenanthrene on to soil fractions in the presence of Triton X-100. Environmental Technology , Vol. 33, No. 3, 321–327.

Ian L. Pepper, C. P. (2006). Environmental and Pollution Science. London: Elsevier.

ZHIFENG YANG, L. W. (2011). SORPTION MECHANISMS OF COEXISTING PAHS ON SEDIMENT ORGANIC FRACTIONS. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry , Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 576–581,.

VeruTEK showcases Green Chemistry at Ecoforum 2012


Meredith Lanoue, a Project Engineer for VeruTEK Technologies sent us this update from Down-Under where she was a delegate and presenter at Ecoforum 2012, in Sydney Australia. Meredith designs, analyzes and reports on applications of VeruTEK’s patented, forefront technology, Surfactant-enhanced In Situ Chemical Oxidation (S-ISCO), and has led VeruTEK’s planning and design for its application in an upcoming remediation project in Sydney. She joined hundreds of industry experts for three days filled with outstanding keynote speakers, discussion forums with industry leaders, technology updates and even a few tours of sustainable projects going on in Sydney.

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"Ecoforum is a great opportunity for us to share the amazing and exciting things that VeruTEK has been up to! VeruTEK has had a strong presence at Ecoforum over the past several years and the company’s name and reputation definitely preceded me.  In the poster session, we showcased our Green-synthesized Nanoscale Iron Activator (GnA)—including it’s Green Chemistry synthesis process and its remarkable efficiency for oxidant activation.    Our second poster presented our Surfactant Enhanced Product Recovery (SEPR™) technology and its recent success in remediating creosote DNAPL at an EPA Superfund Site.  During the Gasworks Remediation session, I presented the New York City brownfield project on which VeruTEK’s S-ISCO chemistry and process was the key technology used to achieve a Certificate of Completion. This case study is hot off the presses! Source destruction, technology fusion – Pressure Pulse and RemMetrik (a patent-pending contamination identification and targeting process), community safety, cost effectiveness, a reduced environmental footprint and a nod from the New York State DEP—what more can you ask for?  It was such a privilege to present on behalf of our treatment team—VeruTEK and Fleming Lee-Shue.  
Finally, VeruTEK sponsored the ISCO Case Studies session and I not only got to play hostess to the international line-up of experts sharing their experiences and research, but also had another opportunity to talk even more about S-ISCO and our recent successes treating coal tar and chlorinated DNAPL."

Day 2 and 3
Day 2- So apparently Sydney is in the midst of a flood. The rain was deluging as we made our way to Technology Park-- the conference venue which is a repurposed locomotive depot-- so cool.  A perfect day to be inside at the conference.
Without the pressure of preparing, presenting and hosting, I enjoyed being a delegate-- attending presentations, checking out the vendors' booths in the exhibition hall, helping out at our Australian partner, ERR's, booth and networking with current and potential business. I particularly enjoyed the series of presentations on LNAPL, as well as the those focusing on waste management and sustainable development.  It was very exciting to connect with current and potential partners who will support our work in Australia, including suppliers of monitoring services and equipment, and chemistry.  The day concluded with a delightful "Ecoforum Dinner", complete with entertainment from opera-singing waiters.

Day 3-
With the bright autumn sun beaming, I headed about an hour out of Sydney Center to visit Sydney Water Corporation's innovative & state-of-the-art waste-water treatment and cogeneration power plant.  On a side note: about Sydney traffic-- it is terrible! While there don't even seem to be that many cars on the road, there must be stop lights every 50 feet- which is miserable for both pedestrians and cars. No matter what time of day, you just don't move! Which is so frustrating to me but no one here seems to be in much of a hurry....I digress....
We had a wonderful introduction to the plant, its history, the magnitude of its catchment area, and then began a tour: we descended 60 m underground to the network of tunnels where the wastewater travels, and saw a one-of-a-kind hydraulically powered turbine. We emerged to tour the sludge settling beds, and the sludge digestors which produce methane that is harvested to power operations at the plant.

Queens, New York Brownfield Site Goes Green


queens brownfield cleanup


BLOOMFIELD, CT.  February 21, 2012. VeruTEK Technologies, Inc. (VTKT), a provider of patented Green Chemistry technologies for environmental remediation and enhanced oil recovery, announced today a Certificate of Completion (COC) has been issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for the successful cleanup of a New York City brownfield.  

The site, located along the East River in Hunters Point, Queens, NY will be redeveloped for a new branch of the Queens Public Library and a New York State Parks ranger station.  VeruTEK successfully implemented its patented Surfactant-enhanced In Situ Chemical Oxidation (S-ISCO) technology at this former industrial site to remediate contamination from coal tar repurposed from Manufactured Gas Plants (MGPs) for use in the production of roofing products. 

This S-ISCO remediation marks the first time a Green Chemistry solution of this kind has been used to remediate MGP-related contamination in New York City and sets a precedent for the use of innovative technologies to achieve a COC within the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

S-ISCO provided a low-impact solution that benefits the health and safety of the community and environment. Specifically VeruTEK’s innovative treatment:

  • Destroyed contamination in place, avoiding digging and hauling thousands of truck-loads of contaminated soil through the community while preserving the stability of the subsurface and high-rise buildings on adjacent parcels;

  • Prevented surrounding businesses and residents from being exposed to dust and emissions related to large scale excavation, and also reduced soil gas contamination;

  • Took place during a short time frame (five months), without disturbing the community; and

  • Provided a permanent solution to site contamination, preparing the site for safe and productive reuse.

Arana Hankin, President of Queens West Development Corporation (QWDC), the New York State public authority responsible for the development of the Queens West project, said, “Issuance of a Certificate of Completion for this brownfield site is an exciting milestone in the redevelopment of Queens waterfront property.  We look forward to beginning the next phase of redevelopment, construction by the City of New York of a state-of-the art public library on the site, which was cleaned up with virtually no disruption to the community.”

At this urban site, VeruTEK conducted  S-ISCO injections to treat more than 50,000 pounds of coal tar contamination in the soil by destroying in-situ (in place underground) over 90% of the combined polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and BTEX compounds, including 95% of the naphthalene.  VeruTEK’s novel S-ISCO technology combines patented plant-based surfactant and co-solvent mixtures (VeruSOL) with free-radical oxidant systems to safely release (desorb) and destroy recalcitrant contaminants from the soil. VeruTEK’s S-ISCO technology destroyed the primary source of contamination, yielding a permanent solution for the site.

VeruTEK’s S-ISCO technology was selected by Fleming Lee Shue, a New York City based environmental management and consulting company which was commissioned to design and manage the cleanup effort by QWDC and a leading national developer and manager of high quality apartment communities. The S-ISCO treatment was augmented by Wavefront Technology Solutions US Inc’s (Wavefront) Primawave pressure-pulsing technology, as well as the RemMetrikSM process to quantify subsurface contamination, optimize its treatment and measure effectiveness.    

Arnold Fleming, President of Fleming Lee Shue, added, “Our firm identifies and commissions innovative technologies which deliver cost effective and thorough environmental cleanup.  We were very impressed with the results of VeruTEK’s S-ISCO technology implementation.  Compared to full-scale excavations conducted on similar nearby sites, VeruTEK’s remedy not only reduced the project cost by over $5 million dollars but also avoided the release of dust and odor, prevented disruption to the community, and reduced the carbon footprint of the clean-up.  The project was done cost effectively, completed on-time, under-budget and resulted in a Certificate of Completion.”

Dan Socci, VeruTEK’s CEO, praised the work of the combined Fleming Lee Shue and VeruTEK team that designed and implemented the S-ISCO remedy, as well as the results achieved, stating, “We are proud of  the outcome of this project and had a very positive experience collaborating with Fleming Lee Shue.  We look forward to repeating this project’s success and bringing a safe, effective and environmentally preferable solution to other brownfield sites, enabling their return to productive use.”­­­

VeruTEK has successfully implemented S-ISCO at locations worldwide to treat former MGP sites, chlorinated solvents contamination—including industrial cleaning and dry cleaning chemicals, home heating oil spills, and gasoline station tank leaks.  The successful destruction of MGP-related coal tar at the Hunters Point brownfield site in Queens, adjacent to the East River and in a densely developed urban setting, demonstrates the ability of S-ISCO to achieve contaminant source destruction in-situ quickly and safely for the benefit of the community and the environment. 


Complete Cleanup for Superfund Sites Required by New York State DEC


New remediation technologies make Superfund Site Cleanup cost-effective, fast, and feasible.

CEO Dan Socci - S-ISCO Green Technologies and Brownfield CleanupWith the new year underway, as CEO of VeruTEK, I felt there was no better time for my inaugural blog. In addition, recent events in the field of environmental remediation, particularly brownfield clean up and development, provide further motivation for this discussion. At VeruTEK, I have the privilege of working with a talented team of professionals who developed one of the exciting new environmental cleanup chemistry technologies available in the industry today. We were very pleased with the recent announcement in New York of a U.S. Court of Appeals 5-2 decision to enforce a state Department of Environmental Conservation regulation to require environmental clean up to “pre-disposal conditions to the extent feasible.” This is in contrast to an opposing view that only “significant threats” need to be addressed.

While this court decision is a victory for communities in their efforts to require property owners to clean up toxic sites, Thomas Walsh, the lawyer for the companies, grouped under the name New York State Superfund Coalition, claimed a partial victory, saying the court left no doubt that “cost-effectiveness” should be a factor in deciding the thoroughness of cleanups.

Cost-Effective Technologies for Superfund Site Cleanup

Walsh’s reference to cost-effectiveness as a determining factor in the decision-making process opens the door for broader acceptance of new technologies in the remediation industry. As property owners are motivated, or obligated, to take more thorough cleanup action, they will be receptive to alternative technologies that are proven to be more cost effective, as well as environmentally friendly.

VeruTEK has successfully remediated multiple brownfield sites in the Northeast using its patented S-ISCO technology to achieve outstanding results in providing permanent destruction of contaminants and converting the sites to valuable development assets.

We applaud the U.S. Court of appeals decision and hope there is additional similar regulatory action to promote brownfield clean up and the expanded use of new, green remediation technologies.


Oil Spill Treatment Product in Time for New EPA SPCC Regulations


VeruTEK Technologies is launching Spill Eraser oil spill treatement product just in time for a new round of EPA Regulations and inspection program.

New EPA Regulations for Petroleum Storage in Above-Ground Tanks

Some Key Facts:

  • 1320 gallons is measured in all containers 55 gallons and over at the site.
  • The petroleum storage area and the loading and unloading areas must be protected by secondary containment.
  • The SPCC requires a written plan, certified by a Registered Professional Engineer.
  • The SPCC requires a designated site person responsible for the implementation of the plan.
  • All personnel involved in the handling of the petroleum must be trained.
  • The EPA requires documentation for weekly tank inspections, training, etc.

EPA is launching a visitation program to perform SPCC Plan audits and Site inspection.

Inspections can consist of:

  • Records review
  • Review of the SPCC plan and training
  • Demonstration by site personnel of mitigation procedures

VeruTEK Technologies is happy to announce our newest addition to our green chemistry line up. Spill Eraser is a plant based industrial cleaner made in the USA perfect for oil spill treatement / leaks and routine facility maintance.Be sure you have the safest most effective mitigation product for your leaks/spills.

Spill Eraser consists of a plant based surfactant and hydrogen peroxide without harmful byproducts.

Cleans surfaces including soil, gravel, asphalt and concrete.

No special equipment

No digging and hauling

No hazardous chemicals

No long waiting periods

                           Maintenance of Spill Prone Areas
SpillEraser™ degrades oil , diesel, or gas into a microemulsion  that is chemically oxidized  to carbon and water. Cleaning activity continues for up to 30 days without interrupting daily facility operations.

SpillEraser™ is non-toxic, safe to handle, and can be applied through standard spray equipment. Include as part of operation and maintenance activities to keep spill prone areas from becoming liabilities. Ideal for treating access limited areas and structures. Stains and odors are removed without the use of hazardous chemicals and eliminates the need for costly digging and hauling.

Click here to watch Spill Eraser Work!

 oil spill cleanup

Feel free to contact Jeff Ayers at 210-215-2460 for more information or technical assistance.

VeruTEK Presents VeruSOLVE Marine for Oil Spill Cleanup


VeruTEK Technologies was delighted to recently educate students about VeruTEK and our approach to oil spill remediation and VeruSOLVE Marine. VeruTEK described its lox toxcity compared to  dispersants currently being utilized and showed how effective VeruSOLVE Marine works by showing the demonstration video.

To download and view VeruSOLVE Marine Video click here.

Education Connections Kerry Donahue reached out to VeruTEK Technologies to speak to 9th graders involved in a year long science and technology intergration project.

"This year’s project challenges students to develop a sustainable method, product, or technology to prevent or remediate a similar man-made environmental disaster in the future. Students plan should either be a new idea or an improvement upon an existing method, product, or technology. Students method, product or technology must fit with this year’s theme: “Moving Forward, Giving Back” Each student team will present its final project at the 2011 CT Student Innovation Expo with a presentation and exhibition booth."

VeruTEK presented a power point regarding some history and background on oil, different types of oil and ways to cleanup and mitigate oils effects. Students we able to see visual props of crude oil, heating oil and Kerosene.

After the presentation students broke up into groups and used different media types (video, poster, power point etc) to present their findings on oil, why its important and what the general public believes about oil and its origins. One student group interviewed students and public at Campus at Central Connecticut State University and presented video on their findings.

It was a pleasure seeing students promoting science and alternatives to traditional remedies. The program is a fantastic way to help children be creative and think outside the box, as  well as expose them to technological advances in media types that give them advanatges in the fast paced world.

Kerry Donahue wrote to speaker Morgan Jenkins " I wanted to thank you again for taking the time to speak with our students yesterday. Everyone really enjoyed hearing about Verutek and the oil remediation technologies at your company. It was a great way to get the students thinking about their own challenge, and so nice for them to see examples of successful green products"

VeruTEK looks forward to attending the final presntation at the CT Expo Center

How it Works:Oil Spill Remediation

Green Technology Company- John Larson Visit


green technology

Congressman John Larson came to visit VeruTEK Technologies Bloomfield CT headquarters. Mr. Larson and his associates were happy to learn about VeruTEK's commitment to green technology. VeruTEK educated Congressman Larson on advances in microemulsion catalysisremediation , surfactants and nanotechnology research that is taking place right in the heart of New England. Historically remediation of oil spills, wastewater, contaminated soil and groundwater has been limited to many archaic technologies and unsustainable forms of clean up. Congressman Larson and his team were happy to see the progress VeruTEK is making in providing green solutions for the marketplace. Dr. John Collins, Dr. George Hoag and VeruTEK employees were able to meet congressman Larson and provide a tour through the newly expanded state of the art laboratory. We hope he visits again soon and spreads the green technology word! remediation

Microemulsion Catalysis and S-ISCO® as a Basis for Designing Green Solutions for the Environment


VeruTEK has been a pioneer in the design of Microemulsion Catalysis systems for the safe, green destruction of contaminants in the environment.  Microemulsion catalysis is essential to overcome organic chemical reagent incompatibility and is well documented in organic synthesis. Problems with existing technologies  for the remediation of Non Aqueous Phase Liquids (NAPLs) exist because the oxidizing reagents (oxidants and catalysts) are in an aqueous phase and the pollutants are predominantly in the organic phase.  This is also true of biocatalytic remediation reactions when NAPLs are present.   

VeruTEK’s S-ISCO® patent pending technology which combines plant surfactants, oxidants, and green catalysts has been shown to be effective in destroying oils, coal tar, creosote, chlorinated solvents and other toxic contaminants associated with NAPLs.  Beyond environmental remediation, microemulsion systems have many industrial and commercial applications such as catalysis, medical, personal care and agricultural uses.

VeruTEK and EPA scientists (see Hoag et al. Degradation of Bromothymol Blue by “Greener” Nanoscale Zero-Valent Iron Synthesized Using Plant Polyphenols, Royal Society of Chemistry Journal of Materials Science and Nadagouda et al.  Green Synthesis of Au Nanostructures at Room Temperature Using Biodegradable Plant Surfactants, American Chemical Society Crystal Growth and Design) and others (see Fallis et al. (2009), Locus-Specific Microemulsion Catalysts for Sulfur Mustard (HD) Chemical Warfare Agent Decontamination, JAMS) have documented  the basis and rationale for the design of oxidative and reductive catalysts for the destruction of environmental toxins.  These publications represent central advances in environmental technology that will be built upon for many years to come.  These papers clear up some of the confusion and dogma still prevalent in the marketplace-  yes, surfactants and oxidants can be combined in stable formulations – and provide a green technology platform to build upon.


Plant – based surfactants – dilute hydrogen peroxide solutions provide one example of new microemulsion catalytic systems as a framework for designing green solutions to many environmental problems, including industrial, commercial and residential cleaning products.  For example, VeruTEK designed a nontoxic surface washing agent to destroy beach tar balls and ocean oils which is presented below.  The practical application of this technology is an alternative to the toxic dispersant used in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  Instead of sinking much of the crude oil while increasing aquatic toxicity, a VeruTEK surface washing agent would provide a green eco-friendly approach to destroying crude oil through emulsification and oxidation (Microemulsion Catalysis) and to additionally take advantage of natural destruction from sunlight and wave action.

Example of the Power of Microemulsion Catalysis Using S-ISCO®:  Destruction of Oil Contaminated Beach Sand Using a Plant-Based Surfactant – Hydrogen Peroxide – Green Catalyst System

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FL Beach Sand – Final Soil

DI Water (left), and S-ISCO® Treatment (right)

Surfactant-Enhanced In Situ Chemical Oxidation (S-ISCO®) batch tests were conducted on weathered crude oil and tar ball contaminated Pensacola Florida beach sand. Jars were filled with 400 grams of contaminated beach sand, followed by the S-ISCO® treatment chemicals. The jar on the left acted as a control and contained beach sand with 400 mL of deionized water, and the jar on the right was treated with S-ISCO® chemicals. Within fourteen days, oil was removed from the beach sand and destroyed in place using VeruSOL®-Marine 200, hydrogen peroxide, and GreenCAT, a green synthesized catalyst.

ConSoil 2010


Dr. George Hoag is attending:


In Austria September 22nd- 24th

Full-scale PCE DNAPL remediation using S-ISCO®
Rasmussen, Larsen, Christensen, Riis, Jensen (NIRAS A/S, DK) Terkelsen (Capital Region, DK) Hoag, Bytautas, Guite (VeruTEK Technologies, USA)

Large-Scale Green Remediation Field Test


VeruTEK Technologies, Inc. (VeruTEK) performed a large-scale green remediation field test. The test focused on treatment of subsurface coal tar at a former Manufactured Gas Plant with VeruTEK's Coelution TechnologyTM, surfactant-enhanced in-situ chemical oxidation (S-ISCOTM). The test results exceeded expectations. Greater than 4 times the test designed soil contamination was destroyed and the test achieved a sustainable reduction in groundwater contamination.

Read More: Large-Scale Green Remediation Field Test

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