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Nature's Bioremediation Featured

We are living in a world today that seems to be getting more and more polluted by the day. Our developed and industrialized societies have brought many advancements we benefit from, yet, along with it all, we became negligent of our relationship with this world in which we live. Now we face a dire situation as we tackle the challenges of global warming and the extreme disruptions it has brought to our once stable environment.

Fast action needs to be taken to reverse the negative impact we have made in such a short space of time. Part of this process involves the removal of pollutants from our soil, water, and air. Pollutants are harmful substances that may be introduced into the environment intentionally, such as traditional pesticides in agriculture sprayed on foods or chemicals used to protects building materials from fires and the elements. Other pollutants may enter the environment unintentionally as a result of another process or improper disposal of potentially toxic materials. Whatever the source there is a key step we can take to remedy the situation

Bio-remediation is the process whereby soil or water areas contaminated by pollutants are treated with biological solutions, in order to clean up the polluted areas. Essentially we are looking at detoxifying contaminated soils with the use of microorganisms, plants, and enzymes from either of the two. Understand that this process uses natures approach in a targeted process to break down these toxins in the environment. Let us explore a wide range of examples showing the impact the biology in high-quality organic soil amendments can have on environmental pollutants to remedy the situation in our soils. [1][2]

Compost, for example, encourages the growth of many types of bacteria that have the ability to help detoxify many types of pesticides, simply by using them as food. High humus level is the most important property facilitating pesticide degradation.[3] Statistical analysis showed that plants grown in soils amended with compost had fruits with higher concentrations of sodium (Na) and Potassium (P) and concentrations of beryllium (Be) and cadmium (Cd) decreased.  Another service of compost is in neutralizing toxins in the soil. The organic acids produced from compost have the ability to bind metals such as aluminum (highly toxic to plants and prevents the absorption of phosphorus) into stable compounds. Thus the aluminum is "locked up" in a stable complex, unable to harm plants.[4]

Furthermore, it was found that the toxicity of plant poisons (high salt concentrations, heavy metals, etc.) become less severe in a soil high in humus (compost).[5]  Hazardous chemicals such as carbofuran insecticide (carbamate family) and simazine herbicide (triazine family) were added to compost piles. Tests showed that 100% of the carbofuran was degraded and 98.6% of the simazine was degraded after only 50 days of composting.[6]

Compost has also been used to help clean up toxic wastes and chemical spills. Bioremediation of soil contaminated with diesel, JP-4, and motor gasoline at a site (Fairbanks, Alaska)

was treated with sewage sludge and composted. Within 70 days some toxins were below measurement limits and others significantly reduced.[7]

Numerous research has shown compost very effective at preventing erosion. This usually occurs at a lower cost and without the pollution of traditional or conventual approaches. The International Erosion Control Society at its 1994 conference in the USA had many papers on the use of compost for flood control, watershed management, sediment control, revegetation and xeriscape technology.

Further research has found, that biodegradation of PCB, TCB, and BaP (PAH) with compost is a function of time with a 40% reduction of these chemicals in 4 months.[8]  The White Rot Fungus that decomposes dead wood (into compost) also has the ability to clean up (digest) chemicals such as pentachlorophenol (a wood preservative more toxic than CCA), dioxins, cyanides, DDT, TNT (explosive), creosote, and coal tar. Other toxic chemicals being tested are Lindane and Toxaphene. After treatment, it was found that 90% of the toxin was destroyed within 60 days.

Honestly, we could spend all day citing the volume of research done over the years, proving the effectiveness of bioremediation, on some of the most persistent pollutants in our environment. More specifically the role of compost and the microorganisms within. We are at a point where we have access to more information than ever before. How we choose to use that information can define the quality of our tomorrow. How we respond to this situation can mean the continuation or end of the planet we once knew.






  1. Research by Carl Potter of the EPA has found that composting significantly reduces polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons found in creosote. BioCycle September 1995.
  2. Compost is valuable as a pollution prevention tool from stormwater treatment to global warming (methane contributes to global warming 400X more than CO2). BioCycle 1995 Washington D.C., Rosalie Green, Ph.D., EPA
  3. ”Evaluating the Suitability of MSW Compost as Soil Amendment in Field-Grown Tomatoes, Part B: Elemental Analysis", D.E. Stilwell, Compost Science & Utilization, 1(3):66-72 (1993)
  4. Composting, Rodale Press, 1992.
  5. Humus: Origin, Chemical Composition, and Importance in Nature, Dr. Selman A. Waksman.
  6. Department of Health Services, California, October 1988.
  7. Treatment of Fuel Product Contaminated Soil in a Cold Climate Using Composting Technology; T. J. Simpkin, D. Walter, J. Doesburg, June 1992.
  8. Compost Science & Utilization, Winter 1995
Read 4284 times Last modified on Wednesday, 12 June 2019 07:58
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