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Remediate

The treatment of environmental problems through biological means is known as bioremediation and the specific use of plants for example by using phytoremediation. Bioremediation is sometimes used in conjunction with a pump and treat system. In bioremediation, either naturally occurring or specially bred bacteria are used to consume contaminants from extracted groundwater. This is sometimes referred to as a bio-gac system. Many times the groundwater is recycled to allow for continuously flowing water and enhanced bacteria population growth. Occasionally the bacteria can build up to such a point that they can affect filtration and pumping. The vessel should then be partially drained. Care must be taken to ensure that a sharp change in the groundwater chemistry does not kill the bacteria (such as a sudden change in pH).

Dual-phase extraction utilizes a soil vapor extraction system that produces a high vacuum resulting in the extraction of both contaminated vapors as well as a limited amount of contaminated groundwater. This method is somewhat inefficient due to large amount of energy required by pulling water by vacuum compared to pushing water with a submersible pump.

Mycoremediation is a form of bioremediation, the process of using fungi to return an environment (usually soil) contaminated by pollutants to a less contaminated state.

In an experiment conducted in conjunction with Batelle, a major contributor in the bioremediation industry, a plot of soil contaminated with diesel oil was inoculated with mycelia of oyster mushrooms; traditional bioremediation techniques (bacteria) were used on control plots. After four weeks, more than 95% of many of the PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) had been reduced to non-toxic components in the mycelial-inoculated plots. It appears that the natural microbial community participates with the fungi to break down contaminants into carbon dioxide and water. Wood-degrading fungi are particularly effective in breaking down aromatic pollutants (toxic components of petroleum), as well as chlorinated compounds (certain persistent pesticides; Battelle, 2000). Hair mats inoculated with oyster mushrooms were successfully employed in the clean-up of the San Francisco Bay area oil spill in 2007.

The key to mycoremediation is determining the right fungal species to target a specific pollutant. Certain strains have also been reported to successfully degrade the nerve gases VX and sarin.

Mycofiltration is a very similar process, using mycelial mats to filter toxic waste and microorganisms from polluted water.

» See the BioCycle line