Bugs can destroy toxins in polluted groundwater

August 2nd, 2011 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 2 (IANS) Bugs can safely destroy dangerous toxins in groundwater, leaching from solvents in plastic effluents.

A trial by researchers has shown that they could be used to clean up similarly polluted sites anywhere in the world by injecting them into the polluted source.

The trial involved cleaning up chlorinated solvents that leaked many years ago from a former Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) chemical plant into the Botany Sands Aquifer in Australia, creating large plumes of contaminated groundwater.

“With present technology, it was expected that it might take decades or perhaps centuries before these toxic solvents are removed from the aquifer,” said associate professor Mike Manefield at the University of New South Wales, who led the research.

“Our tests showed that these bacteria effectively breathe these pollutants the way we breathe oxygen,” added Manefield, according to a New South Wales statement.

“It’s a big step forward. These cultures represent a greener and cheaper tool we can use to clean up some of our contaminated sites,” he added.

Researchers collected bacteria occurring naturally in the Botany aquifer and isolated three bacterial communities that live off the breakdown of pollutants, including the first one known to degrade chloroform - a possible carcinogen that has been banned in consumer products.

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