Bioremediation Comes of Age

by C. Hamilton Mills, Western Carlson Design/Construction Corporation, San Francisco, CA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1995, Vol. 65, Issue 5, Pg. 80-81

Document Type: Feature article


Only five years ago engineers and scientists met with EPA officials to weigh the merits of bioremediation as a hazwaste cleanup tool. Now bioremediation has become an accepted effective cleanup method. Its a simple process, induced by natural cellular activity called phagocytosis that occurs in soil between indigenous microflora or organic carbon-bearing molecules, such as petroleum-based hydrocarbons. When introduced to hydrocarbon-saturated soil, the microorganism creates a biofilm around the hydrocarbon molecule and breaks it down into simpler compounds of carbon and oxygen. When the hydrocarbon or nutrient source is depleted, microbe activity ceases and the microbes die. A large portion of the hazardous-waste contamination in the U.S. stems from such petroleum-hydrocarbon products that have been discharged or spilled into the soil at petroleum production well pads, airports, military bases and large manufacturing plants. At these sites hydrocarbon contaminants--crude oil; paraffin; diesel and jet fuel; gasoline; chlorinated solvents and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX)--are present. Bioremediation removes these contaminants from soil organically, while maintaining the microbial populations that keep soil healthy and viable.

Subject Headings: Non-renewable energy | Hydrocarbons | Soil pollution | Microbes | Petroleum | Pollutants | Wells (water)

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