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Looking into the Promise of Bioremediation

by Pranav Gaba | 27-08-2023 19:54 recommendations 0

Bioremediation is a burgeoning branch of biotechnology that employs the use of microorganisms, specifically bacteria to decontaminate a site by converting the contaminants or pollutants into water and gas (carbon dioxide). 

Bioremediation is in a sense similar to decomposting, where excess food waste is turned into manure, but much larger in scope and impact. It is a process that can be applied on contaminated soil, water and other environments.

The practice of bioremediation works in a similar way as decomposting wherein naturally occuring or synthesised microorganisms are deliberately introduced to the polluted site, which then breaks the pollutants into their own food, water and harmless gases (mainly carbon di-oxide). It requires a combination of right temperature, food and nutrients to take place, otherwise the cleanup gets prolonged. Conditions that are unfavourable for bioremediation may be improved by adding 'amendments' to the environment such as molasses,vegetale oil, or simply air which optimize the conditions and allow the microbes to flourish, thereby accelerating the pace of the process.

Bioremediation takes place in two ways, 'in situ' which is at the site of containation itself, and 'ex situ' which is at a location away from the site. Ex situ bio remediation may be necessary if the climate is too cold for the microbial activity to sustain or if the soil is too dense for nutrients to evenly get distributed.

The bioremediation process can take anywhere from several months to years depending on the climate conditions, size of the polluted site, temperature, or if it will take place in situ or ex situ.

Bioremediation offers a number of benefits and has distinct advantages over other methods of cleanups. By relying solely on natural processes and natrally occuring phenomenon, it minimizes damage to the environment. Since it is often done underground it does not disrupt any nearby communities. And finally, it is cheaper than most other methodologies since it does not require substantial equipment or labour.

Example of Bioremedition

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker capsized in 1989 off the coast of Alaska, causing an estimated 11 million gallons of oil to spill. At the same time, bioremediation was gaining popularity as an effective method for cleaning up oil spills. Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM) and the EPA both started experimenting with various substances. Initial studies on the efficacy of bioremediation appeared positive.

Over 2000 applications totaling more than 100,000 pounds of fertilizer were made to the impacted areas between 1989 and 1990. The cleanup was deemed finished by mid-1992, and the fertilizer had virtually destroyed all of the oil compounds.

1. Mitchell, Cory. “What Is Bioremediation, and How Does It Work (With Examples)?” Investopedia, July 2022, www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bioremediation.asp.
2. Seagren, Eric A. “Bioremediation.” Elsevier eBooks, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-824315-2.00413-9.

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James Mentor

  • James Mentor says :
    Hello Pranav! This is your mentor James.

    What an interesting report regarding bioremediation! It's quite ironic that fertilizers which are known to be one of the main causes of soil erosion were used to clean up oil spills. With bioremediation, we would be able to prevent such catastrophic effects on the environment.

    Thanks for your great work! Let's keep it up!
    Posted 31-08-2023 22:55

Yewon Mentor

  • Yewon Mentor says :
    Hello Pranav! This is your mentor Yewon.
    You have written an informative report about the promise of bioremediation!
    I was not familiar with the term bioremediation before, and I learned a lot from your report!
    Thank you for your meaningful report. Great job!
    Posted 30-08-2023 08:58

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