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An experimental investigation was performed to evaluate the effects of oil contamination on soils and to establish a methodology to identify and classify contaminated soils. Identification and classification tests were performed before treatment, cleaning, stabilization, or disposal of contaminated soils.
There are no standards for identification and classification of contaminated soils. Fine-grained, oil-contaminated soils are often identified and classified as granular soils with large particle sizes and may result in selection of improper treatment techniques. In this study, four uncontaminated soils were first identified and classified; then, all four soils were mixed with 3% motor oil. The oil-contaminated soils were first tested for identification and classification and then treated by (1) heating in ovens at various temperatures (low-temperature desorption), (2) adding solvents (solvent extraction), and (3) adding surfactants (treatment with surfactants).
The processed soils were then reidentified and reclassified. Test results showed that treatment with a surfactant produced near-virgin soils for all four soil types. The solvent extraction was adequate only for the silty sand and the silty clay. The low-temperature thermal treatment was inadequate for all four soils. To further confirm the above test results, the low-plastic clay was mixed with 6% motor oil and the above test program repeated. This soil with a higher degree of contamination produced the same results. To provide an explanation for the change in soil behavior due to oil contamination, low-plastic soil was mixed with oil up to 70% by weight and Atterberg limit tests performed. It was concluded that fine-grained soils when contaminated with oil behave as granular soils with particle aggregation. Since soils in this study were artificially contaminated, one should exert caution when applying the results of this study to soils in contact with oil for many years.
Associate professor, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ
Lecturer, Open University of Sri Lanka, Colombo,
Stock #: GTJ10120J