Brit Liggett

Naturally Occuring Bacteria Could Help Clean Oil Spill

by , 05/03/10

gulf coast, oil spill, deepwater horizon, bp, oil spill clean up, natural oil spill clean up, bioremediation, gulf of mexico, bp

Almost two weeks after the disaster started, the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico is still gushing up to 10,000 barrels of oil into the ocean every day. Efforts by BP and the US government to stop leakage have come up with empty hands, however it turns out one of the keys to cleanup might already exist in the now oil-infested waters. Natural microbes present in every ocean are superb cleaners, and with the addition of a bit of fertilizer they could prove successful in removing oil from the Gulf. A quick dusting would help the microbes multiply and then they would dine on oil en masse until it’s gone.

gulf coast, oil spill, deepwater horizon, bp, oil spill clean up, natural oil spill clean up, bioremediation, gulf of mexico, bp

The process of using naturally present microorganisms to clean up oil spills is called bioremediation. Unfortunately the process won’t work out at sea and can only be used when the oil reaches shore — which is what the coast guard and clean-up workers are currently trying to prevent. The microorganisms, even without fertilizers, will begin to chow down on the oil when it enters their natural habitat. So, with the addition of sulfate or nitrate fertilizers the microorganism multiply beyond their natural state and eat up the toxic metals invading their home at up to five times the rate that they would without assistance.

There is a side effect to this process, however — Isn’t there always? It is possible that after the microorganisms devour the massive oil spill they could introduce the heavy metals present in the spill into the food chain. Larger organisms eat them and on up the ladder until it reaches humans. So though bioremediation may be lessening the initial impact of oil spills on the surrounding waters it could be introducing that very oil spill into our diets.

Via USA Today

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9 Comments

  1. Oil-Eating Microbes Suc... August 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm

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  2. Stanford Scientists Tra... August 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm

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  3. kitkattigger June 25, 2010 at 2:22 am

    I became interested in this form of oil clean-up due to a paper I am helping my daughter research. According to most of the research I have done the micro-organisms do no release or contain the heavy metal but instead also break them down. Therefore, where is the danger of the heavy metals being released into the food chain?

  4. cssninja June 16, 2010 at 11:20 am

    All is NOT lost .. MICROBES to the rescue!

    Please join this Facebook group: “Bioremediation Via MICROBES Can Clean The Oil Spill!” at http://bit.ly/d8l5gI to learn about OIL-EATING MICROBES & bioremediation. There are many companies out there that specialize in releasing oil-eating microbes into the ocean or onto land that can clean up oil in a matter of weeks and months. This technology is called ‘bioremediation’. This Facebook group has an information-packed list (click the INFO TAB) which contains a diverse choice of the world’s best bioremediation companies, including detailed information, media sources and all the contact info the Gulf Coast community will need to bring oil-eating microbe technology to their coastlines.

    We can’t wait around for ‘big government’ to do it .. it’ll never happen. We have to do it ourselves. You can make a difference in saving an ecosystem, innocent wildlife and even a local economy.

  5. Manufacturer May 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Bio-stimulation (adding nutrients and allowing natural microorganism to do their thing) is a great method as is bio-augmentation (adding specialized microorganisms to perform a desired task). Each have their pros and cons, each work better in different situation. Neither is cure-all. Simply adding fertilizer to a spill and letting the natural microorganisms do their job has the drawback of time. It takes time for the right population to kick in and get going. Sometimes time is not on your side. Both technologies should be used without delay.

  6. GM May 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Dr. Ron Atlas, PhD, is an environmental microbiologist who has done TONS of research on this topic, including with Exxon after the spill from the Valdeze. He and others have demonstrated that the oil itself selects for microbes in the environment that can metabolize it, and that applying fertilizer to the contaminated area does indeed provide these microbes with enough nitrogen and phosphorous that they are able to utilize the oil, which is mostly carbon and hydrogen. All this information and technology is out there ready to go. Why isn’t BP using it??

  7. thegreenman May 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I would check into http://www.Gorrilagrow.com

    It is a live organism that is already on a medium that would assist with spills (cedar chips). It is food grade EU and organic certified. I breaks down carbon amongst other microbes and the best yet it will turn it into nitrogen!!!!!! It would actually attract the oil to it and begin to break it down. As far as I can tell, once it is collected and put somewhere it will continue break down the oil.

    I am challenging anyone to get this knowledge to the powers that be. I believe it is the best solution.

  8. ENVIROTACT May 12, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I HAVE USED MICROBES TO EAT OIL SPILLS FOR OVER 33 YEARS NOW. YOU WERE RIGHT ABOUT THE MICROBES EATING THE SPILL BUT WRONG ABOUT THE TRANSFER OF HEAVY METAL RELEASED – GOING UP THE FOOD CHAIN. THOSE “HEAVY METAL” WOULD HAVE TO BECOME “METYLIZED” LIKE MERCURY TO BECOME BIOMAGNIFIED. BIOREMEDIATION WITH ENGINEERED MICROBES IS AN OVERNIGHT CURE FOR MOST SPILLS…NATURALLY OCCURING MICROBES BUT WITH SERIES OF ATTENUATED STRAINS THAT ARE SUPER BUGS WILL DO THE JOB OVERNIGHT. I KNOW – I’VE BEEN DOING IT FOR DECADES. ENVIROTACT – FLORIDA KEYS.

  9. jbtutt13 May 3, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    To the editor…can you please look at a video on YouTube under the tags Megaborg Oil Spill. If you google Dr. Carl Oppenheimer you’ll find the company that supplied the microbes for that spill and some of the tests done by the Texas Land Board.

    I spoke with the chief engineer and she said that as soon as the spill reaches calm waters or land, the microbes can be applied. The problem is, no one from BP has even contacted them.

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