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.

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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