Bioremediation: Let the healing begin!

Jennifer Gordon
The Critter Company
Alameda, California

Wednesday, November 17, 1999
3:00 p.m.—Pacific Forum

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Trillions and trillions of ravenous, gluttonous microbes, gorging themselves on an oil spill (or other organic contamination), leaving only carbon dioxide, water and trace elements of fatty acids in their wake. It doesn’t get better than this!

Nature has been degrading organic contamination with microbes for a very long time. Bioremediation simply shortens the process by adding great quantities of the non-toxic, non-pathogenic and naturally occurring microbes specifically chosen to degrade the offending contaminant(s) to the site. It is effective in fresh and salt water and in soil.

The objective in bioremediation is to put as many contamination-degrading microbes as possible in contact with the contaminant. Once the microbes are in touch with the contamination, the feeding frenzy begins.

Organic contamination is comprised of chains of carbon molecules. Some carbon chains are long. Some are short. Petroleum products, restaurant grease, septic sludge, animal urine and manure are a few examples of organic contaminants. The microbes "eat," or rather "break down," the carbon chains until the contaminant is completely eliminated.

The ocean is an excellent arena for the use of bioremediation. When an oil slick is treated with microbes, the cleaning process begins immediately. The microbes latch onto the contaminant and do not let go until it is completely eliminated. When the mass is cleaned, the microbes die.

Applications for bioremediation, effective treatment methods, and examples of sites cleaned will be among the topics discussed.

Next: An Introduction to MBARI's new Expedition and

 Last updated: December 19, 2000