Feb 062011
 
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Low-Energy Remediation With Patented Microbes

Using funding provided under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory has launched a demonstration project near one of the Savannah River Site’s former production reactor sites to clean up chemically contaminated groundwater, naturally.

A portion of the subsurface at the Site’s P Area has become contaminated with chlorinated volatile organic compounds that are essentially like dry-cleaning fluid. SRNL and Clemson University have patented a consortium of microbes that have an appetite for that kind of material.

“If they are as effective as we expect in cleaning up the chemical contamination in the groundwater, it will be far cheaper than energy-intensive types of cleanup, such as pump-and-treat techniques or soil heating,” said Mark Amidon, SRNL’s project manager for the demonstration.

The mixture of microbes was found occurring naturally at SRS, where they were feeding on the same kind of chemical that was in groundwater seeping into an SRS creek. SRNL and Clemson University worked together on the discovery and characterization of the microbes. The mixture is called MicroCED, for “microbiological-based chlorinated ethene destruction,” and when injected into the subsurface can completely transform lethal chlorinated ethenes to safe, nontoxic end products.

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