The Natural Way to Clean a Diesel Fuel Spill

Written by damien thryn
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Chemical compounds are often used to clean up oil derivative spills, including diesel fuel spills. These spills are concerning because oil-based fuels are known to contaminate groundwater. Unfortunately, there are significant concerns that chemical cleanup methods may simply replace one environmental contaminant with another. According to the Alaska Science Forum at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the greenest, natural way to clean a diesel fuel spill is bioremediation. This process uses naturally occurring bacteria and other organic elements to break down and dispose of diesel fuel without harming the environment.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Absorbent barrier
  • Pseudomona-treated soil
  • Waste water
  • Shovel
  • Biodegradable plastic bags

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  1. 1

    Lay the absorbent barrier completely around the diesel fuel spill. Preventing the spill from moving laterally will make it easier to contain and clean.

  2. 2

    Spread a 6-inch layer of pseudomona-treated soil over all diesel fuel within the absorbent barrier. Pseudomonas are bacteria with an affinity for oil-based fuel that will convert it to oxygen and carbon dioxide.

  3. 3

    Dampen the treated soil with wastewater. Do not allow pools of water to form, but keep the soil is moist. This will encourage pseudomona reproduction within the soil, accelerating the breakdown of the diesel fuel.

  4. 4

    Turn the treated soil within the absorbent barrier with a shovel once a day until there is no longer a diesel smell when the soil is disturbed. Moisten the soil with water each time it is turned. All soil initially on top of the 6-inch layer must come into contact with diesel fuel at the bottom.

  5. 5

    Shovel the soil within the absorbent barrier into biodegradable plastic bags. Do this only when the distinct smell of diesel is completely gone. This will mean it has been absorbed and broken down.

  6. 6

    Dispose of the filled biodegradable plastic bags and the absorbent barrier.

Tips and warnings

  • If the diesel spill takes place on soil, mix the top 6 inches of topsoil into the treated soil when conducting the daily process of turning the treated soil. This will clean up diesel fuel that has contaminated the topsoil.
  • For best results, leave a fresh 1-inch layer of treated soil on the area of the spill after all the other treated soil has been removed.
  • Wear a breathing mask and rubber gloves. Diesel is a hazardous substance that should not be inhaled nor allowed to come into contact with skin.
  • If diesel fuel is splashed on bare skin, scrub the affected surface with soap and warm water as soon as possible. Any clothing that has come into contact with diesel fuel should be immediately removed and washed thoroughly before being worn again.
  • Dispose of contaminated soil and materials according to local rules and ordinances.

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