Researchers demonstrating low-energy remediation with patented microbes

Jan 31, 2011
Savannah River National Laboratory personnel take readings at the site of the demonstration of MicroCED microbial consortium for natural cleanup of chlorinated solvents. Credit: Savannah River National Laboratory

Using funding provided under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River National Laboratory has launched a demonstration project near one of the Savannah River Site's former production reactor sites to clean up chemically contaminated groundwater, naturally.

A portion of the subsurface at the Site's P Area has become contaminated with chlorinated that are essentially like dry-cleaning fluid. SRNL and Clemson University have patented a consortium of that have an appetite for that kind of material.

"If they are as effective as we expect in cleaning up the chemical contamination in the groundwater, it will be far cheaper than energy-intensive types of cleanup, such as pump-and-treat techniques or soil heating," said Mark Amidon, SRNL's project manager for the demonstration.

The mixture of microbes was found occurring naturally at SRS, where they were feeding on the same kind of chemical that was in groundwater seeping into an SRS creek. SRNL and Clemson University worked together on the discovery and characterization of the microbes. The mixture is called MicroCED, for "microbiological-based chlorinated ethene destruction," and when injected into the subsurface can completely transform lethal chlorinated ethenes to safe, nontoxic end products.

In P Area, the first step was to make groundwater conditions better for the microbes. "In late summer we injected more than 5,000 gallons of emulsified , buffering agents and amendments and 108,000 gallons of water to get the dissolved oxygen and acidity right," Amidon said. "Once the conditions were right, we started injecting the store of microbes we've been culturing." An initial application of 18 gallons of the microbes was recently injected to get things started. By the end of the demonstration, approximately 1,500 gallons of the microbes could be injected into the demonstration site.

Amidon estimated that it would take a year or more to see appreciable results. "You can't rush Mother Nature."

The current test site is about 100 by 120 feet at the surface and 85 to 100 feet below ground, and will be used to determine whether this approach should be used for full-scale treatment of the area. "If we were to go full-scale, there would be a 'biowall' about 1,000 feet long and between 50 and 145 feet below ground," Amidon said.

SRNL has been working in bioremediation for many years, using existing microorganisms as part of the strategy. The difference here is the culturing and injection of quantities of a specific mixture of microbes for use on chlorinated solvents. (Another SRNL invention, BioTiger, is a consortium of microbes used on petroleum contamination.)

Explore further: Fighting bacteria—with viruses

Provided by Savannah River National Laboratory

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bacteria That Degrade PCBs Identified

Mar 28, 2007

Researchers have identified a group of bacteria that can detoxify a common type of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have contaminated more than 250 U.S. sites, including river and lake sediments.

New insights into costly destruction of subsurface petroleum

Sep 25, 2006

Scientists are reporting an advance toward understanding and possibly combating a natural process that destroys billions of dollars worth of subsurface petroleum. Called biodegradation, it occurs as bacteria and other microbes ...

Microscopic solutions to world's biggest problems

Oct 12, 2010

World class scientist professor Willy Verstraete will explain on Monday how he and his team are using bacteria to produce energy, degrade waste, clean water and kill viruses. Today we are faced with seemingly insurmountable ...

Recommended for you

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

Jul 24, 2014

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

Jul 24, 2014

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Brand new technology detects probiotic organisms in food

Jul 23, 2014

In the food industr, ity is very important to ensure the quality and safety of products consumed by the population to improve their properties and reduce foodborne illness. Therefore, a team of Mexican researchers ...

Protein evolution follows a modular principle

Jul 23, 2014

Proteins impart shape and stability to cells, drive metabolic processes and transmit signals. To perform these manifold tasks, they fold into complex three-dimensional shapes. Scientists at the Max Planck ...

Report on viruses looks beyond disease

Jul 22, 2014

In contrast to their negative reputation as disease causing agents, some viruses can perform crucial biological and evolutionary functions that help to shape the world we live in today, according to a new report by the American ...

User comments : 0