Bioremediation: Testing the Waters

by Michael R. Piotrowski, Project Scientist; Woodward-Clyde Consultants, 1550 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1989, Vol. 59, Issue 8, Pg. 51-53

Document Type: Feature article


Piotrowski describes the pilot study that led to the first EPA-mandated use of bioremediation to clean up a Superfund aquifer. (Bioremediation seeks to stimulate microbial activity to metabolize and destroy contaminants.) The pilot study was conducted at a lumber mill in Northwestern Montana. Releases of the wood preservatives creosote and pentachlorophenol between 1946 and 1969 had polluted soil and groundwater, creating a contaminant plume longer than 1 mile. In the pilot study, hydrogen peroxide was pumped into contaminated groundwater to increase levels of dissolved oxygen. The lack of oxygen was limiting metabolism of the wood preservatives by microbes in the water. At one of two test sites, a sharp increase of oxygen coincided with a marked decrease in contaminants, providing the first field evidence for this reaction. Also included is a discussion of the full scale design for cleaning up the site, which will include bioremediation of contaminated soil, extraction and treatment of heavily contaminated groundwater, and installation of a full scale peroxide injection system at the head of the contaminant plume, as well as continuation of the injection system developed for the pilot study.

Subject Headings: Wood preservatives | Groundwater pollution | Remediation | Biological processes | Water management | Microbes | Plumes | Dissolved oxygen | Montana | United States

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