An apparatus for decontaminating ground areas where toxic chemicals are buried includes a plurality of spaced electrodes located in the ground and to which a voltage is applied for bringing about current flow. Power delivered to the ground volatilizes the chemicals that are then collected and directed to a gas treatment system. A preferred form of the invention employs high voltage arc discharge between the electrodes for heating a ground region to relatively high temperatures at relatively low power levels. Electrodes according to the present invention are provided with preferentially active lower portions between which current flows for the purpose of soil heating or for soil melting and vitrification. Promoting current flow below ground level avoids predominantly superficial treatment and increases electrode life.