Bioremediation

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Emily Ma, Journalist/Editor

Bioremediation is a process in which environmental pollutants are broken down or rendered harmless by microorganisms, such as microbes and bacteria. Bioremediation artificially stimulates the growth of these microorganisms, which use contaminants for food and energy. This process is used to clean up contaminated soil and groundwater, and is preferred over other methods of remediation due to its eco-friendly nature and relatively low cost.
In order for bioremediation to take place, the environment must meet a specific set of requirements. This includes the right temperature, moisture, and pH level. Without the proper environment for microorganisms to thrive, they grow slower or die altogether. When the environment is altered, microorganisms are able to reproduce more, live longer, and degenerate pollutants faster. Amendments to the environment range from household items such as vegetable oil and molasses, to chemicals used to produce oxygen.
One example of bioremediation in use is to eradicate oil spills. Oil spills pose a large problem to Earth because petroleum consists of harmful chemicals and metals. Certain microbes, such as marinobacter, are able to break down harmful chemicals into non-toxic compounds. These microorganisms naturally degenerate petroleum, but work at an incredibly slow pace, causing only minimal benefit. However, by artificially boosting the environment using fertilizers and other solutions, microorganisms are able to combat environmental issues much more effectively.
Besides being used to clean oil spills, bioremediation is often used for acidic mining damage, contaminated soils, plastic pollution, and more. While the process is slow, researchers believe that with more research, bioremediation can lead us to a healthier, more sustainable future.