The technical applications involved in the bioremediation of contaminants, especially petroleum hydrocarbons, in soil and ground water are simply an enhancement of natural processes that occur in surface and subsurface soils and other environmental media. In these natural processes, microbes that are in contact with petroleum sources become acclimated to the chemical environment and adapt the metabolic processes necessary to utilize these chemical compounds as a food source. Over time the chemicals are degraded leaving the microbial population with yet another challenge to shifting metabolic processes in the absence of chemical contamination. As in the case of oil spills on land or in water, the microbes capable of surviving the chemical alteration of their environment eventually adapt to this environment and the speciation of the natural microbial population becomes changed in response to the altered food source.
Over the last 20 years, the processes of microbial degradation of petroleum and other contaminants have been studied and techniques have been developed to optimize the degradation and attenuation of chemicals, particularly petroleum hydrocarbons that occur in the environment as a result of disastrous spills or leaks from bulk storage facilities and transport vessels. Bioremediation enhancement techniques include optimization of environmental chemical parameters such as pH, oxygen, nutrients, moisture, etc. Enhancement techniques have also included the direct alteration of bacterial strains known with the capacity to degrade hydrocarbons. The alteration of bacterial strains acts to “purify” the bacterial cultures through stress acclimation, i.e., utilization of chemical constituents as a sole food source in combination with optimal environmental conditions. In conducting bioremediation projects under controlled field conditions, cultured bacterial populations are selected based upon their ability to survive sporadic inclement conditions and also upon their voracity in metabolic rate.
The rate of biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons is directly related to the density and proportion of bacteria known to be hydrocarbon degraders within the indigenous population. If the proportion of hydrocarbon degraders among the indigenous population is weak, nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate are competitively metabolized by non-degraders in the indigenous population. In the case where bacterial populations are generally absent in a given substrate, there is the ability to directly control the speciation of the microbial population through inoculation of a specific culture. In these cases, manipulation of environmental conditions can lead to a high rate of degradation over shortened periods of time.
Environmental Realty Services is a leader in the promotion of bioremediation of soils and ground water contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemicals.
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