Bio Bonanza?

by Teresa Austin, Asst. Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 4, Pg. 49-51

Document Type: Feature article


Bioremediation was used on a portion of the Exxon oil spill, causing the popular press to take notice of the ability of bugs to eat away at oil and, possibly, toxic wastes. The Alaskan oil spill also brought the technology to the forefront of EPA policy regarding hazardous waste cleanups. Since 1988, EPA administrator William Reilly has tried to spark more research for bioremediation by pushing the Biosystems Technology Development Program. Recently top EPA staff met with those in the biotechnology industry to discuss the problems associated with the application of biotechnology. The EPA has been reluctant to accept bioremediation as a possible cleanup technology, partly because the science is a new one and partly because EPA scientists caution that lack of research data leaves many of the claims unverified. Those in the biotechnology industry claim many successful remediations, but say clients are unwilling to go public and share the data. This leaves the EPA with only bench scale or pilot-level results, a problem since bioremediation is very site specific. What happens in the flask is not necessarily what will happen onsite. This also leaves claims of low costs unverified. It is also harder to prove that biodegradation with bioremediation. Does it work, or do the toxics merely escape into the air or leach into the groundwater?

Subject Headings: Hazardous materials spills | Environmental Protection Agency | Claims | Toxicity | Industries | Waste treatment | Recycling

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