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Information @ a Glance

  • Bioremediation can be defined as any process that uses microorganisms, fungi, green plants or their enzymes to return the environment altered by contaminants to its original condition. Bioremediation may be employed to attack specific soil contaminants, such as degradation of chlorinated hydrocarbons by bacteria.
  • Bioremediation is an option that offers the possibility to destroy or render harmless various contaminants using natural biological activity. As such, it uses relatively low-cost, low-technology techniques, which generally have a high public acceptance and can often be carried out on site.


  • There are two main avenues of bioremediation operation: In situ can be used where excavation is impractical - under highways, buildings, runways, etc. This process can simultaneously treat soil and groundwater in one step, without the generation of hazardous waste products. Using an engineered treatment setup where contamination is placed for bioremediation is called an ex situ process (bioslurry, bioreactor, landfarming, etc.)
  • The anaerobic reductive de-chlorination process is a biodegradation mechanism that relies on the growth of bacteria as a result of the reduction of PCE and its daughter products under anaerobic conditions. As one or more chlorine atoms on the CAH are replaced with hydrogen, the bacteria gain energy. The CAH serves as the electron acceptor in this anaerobic process and the hydrogen is the electron donor. The hydrogen necessary for this reaction is delivered by direct infusion.


  • In-situ groundwater bioremediation is a technology that encourages growth and reproduction of indigenous microorganisms to enhance biodegradation of organic constituents in the saturated zone. In-situ groundwater bioremediation can effectively degrade organic constituents which are dissolved in groundwater and adsorbed onto the aquifer matrix.

  • In-situ groundwater bioremediation can be effective for the full range of petroleum hydrocarbons. While there are some notable exceptions  the short-chain, low-molecular-weight, more water soluble constituents are degraded more rapidly and to lower residual levels than are long-chain, high-molecular-weight, less soluble constituents. Recoverable free product should be removed from the subsurface prior to operation of the in-situ groundwater bioremediation system. This will mitigate the major source of contaminants as well as reduce the potential for smearing or spreading high concentrations of contaminants. In-situ bioremediation of groundwater can be combined with other saturated zone remedial technologies (e.g., air sparging) and vadose zone remedial operations (e.g., soil vapor extraction, bioventing).


  • The J.R. Simplot Ex-Situ Bioremediation Technology is designed to anaerobically degrade nitroaromatic and energetic compounds in soils and liquids without forming identifiable toxic intermediate compounds produced by other biotreatment methods. This technology was evaluated under the Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation (SITE) Program on soils contaminated with 2-sec-butyl-4,6-dinitrophenol (dinoseb), a RCRA-listed herbicide (P020).

  • Enhanced aerobic bioremediation technologies are used to accelerate naturally occurring in-situ bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbons, and some fuel oxygenates such as methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), by indigenous microorganisms in the subsurface. Enhanced aerobic bioremediation technologies include biosparging; bioventing; use of oxygen releasing compounds; pure oxygen injection; hydrogen peroxide infiltration; and ozone injection. These technologies work by providing a supplemental supply of oxygen to the subsurface, which becomes available to aerobic, hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria. 

Market and Report

  • The current technology-based land remediation market is worth in the region of 120 130 million. Technologies such as soil washing, bioremediation and other extractive methods have developed to a stage where they are both commercially viable and compete head-to-head with excavate and landfill options. Over the next 5 years, this is expected to grow to 320 350 million per annum. Major sites will increasingly use soil washing, bio-remediation and other technology-based remediation. Funding will be a mixture of public sector (UK and European) and private sector with increasing use of public/private partnership. 

  • Although bioremediation holds great promise for dealing with intractable environmental problems, it is important to recognize that much of this promise has yet to be realized. Specifically, much needs to be learned about how microorganisms interact with different hydrologic environments. As this under-standing increases, the efficiency and applicability of bioremediation will grow rapidly. Because of its unique interdisciplinary expertise in microbiology, hydrogeology, and geochemistry, the USGS will continue to be at the forefront of this exciting and rapidly evolving technology.

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