Bioremediation: Does it actually work?

Bioremediation: an idea that sounds good, but does it actually work in the real world? YES! Numerous methods exist for cleaning up contamination, and we can go over each one.

Covering the contaminated area with a wet cover, as in mining tailings ponds: Obviously this is not an alternative other than when there is a closed area of liquid waste but in this case it sounds like a great idea, simple and inexpensive. This keeps the air from reaching the contaminants, preventing oxidation which would result in the release of contaminants. But, what about wind and waves, or evaporation? Maybe not the best solution.

Covering the contaminated area with a dry cover. This is how contamination in landfills is contained. The site is lined at the bottom and sides preventing water from draining out, and the top is covered to prevent the air from coming in. With proper engineering a dry cover can be effective in preventing the entrance of air or excess water. However, the problem with covering contamination is – you are just covering up the problem. There are still contaminants existing underneath that cover and the lower lining does not last forever. A natural disaster such as an earthquake, man-made construction or blasting. or the simple wear and tear over time, that lining will be breached and contaminants will eventually make there way into undisturbed land or waterways.

Adding chemicals to remove contaminants. Chemical reactions are what causes contaminants to be harmful, but also revert the toxin to a stable, safe form which is not dangerous to the environment, or the plants, animals and humans who exist in the area. Unfortunately, the chemicals used can be toxic themselves, causing further damage and resulting in additional costs for clean up of the “clean up”.

Removing contamination with a filter. Filters can be man-made or natural. Man-made filters require a degree of maintenance, over time they will clog and need to be changed, just as an air conditioner or furnace filter must be changed or cleaned regularly. Natural filters are the transition from a large size barrier (such as rocks) to a small size (sand). These are referred to as passive barriers, which are derived from natural materials but require a large amount of space.

Bioremediation. A natural, green, cost effective alternative using microorganisms which exist in the surrounding environment.

Bioremediation has been in use in North America since 1992. For example, in 1975 in Hanahan, South Carolina, 80,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked from a military storage facility and made its way into the soil. The jet fuel leached into the ground water and ten years later toxic compounds were present in residential water. It was determined that organisms naturally existing in the soil were capable of “eating” or transforming the toxins into harmless compounds. Increasing carbon nutrition in the soil enhanced microbial activity, within a year contaminant levels had decreased by 75% in the residential area, and even more so closer to the storage area.

Microorganisms are capable of transforming chemicals, metals, sewage and numerous other dangerous compounds into harmless compounds. Bioremediation has been used in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to help mitigate damage, removing an approximated 200,000 tons of oil from the water. Bacteria can biodegrade plastics and help to break down virtually any waste, contaminant or toxin in any area, whether above ground, below ground, in water, the possibilities are endless.

New species of bacteria with unique capabilities are being identified on a regular basis. The more we learn the more we will be able to put this knowledge to use. We aim to use this technology to help you and the environment.

ECA Certified:

BioNorth Solutions has be approved by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change for a mobile ECA which allows us to use Microbiate’s oil spill bioremediation product for large-scale in situ treatment of hydrocarbons.



BioNorth Solutions has a fully equipped lab with modern technology to analyze and treat sites in varying degrees!