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Environmental biotechnology


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Biotechnological processes for soil and land treatment, biotechnological processes for water treatment

Enhanced bioremediation is a process in which indigenous or inoculated micro-organisms (e.g., fungi, bacteria, and other microbes) degrade (metabolize) organic contaminants found in soil and/or ground water, converting them to innocuous end products. Nutrients, oxygen, or other amendments may be used to enhance bioremediation and contaminant desorption from subsurface materials. In the presence of sufficient oxygen (aerobic conditions), and other nutrient elements, microorganisms will ultimately convert many organic contaminants to carbon dioxide, water, and microbial cell mass.

In the absence of oxygen (anaerobic conditions), the organic contaminants will be ultimately metabolized to methane, limited amounts of carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of hydrogen gas. Under sulfate-reduction conditions, sulfate is converted to sulfide or elemental sulfur, and under nitrate-reduction conditions, dinitrogen gas is ultimately produced.

Sometimes contaminants may be degraded to intermediate or final products that may be less, equally, or more hazardous than the original contaminant. For example, TCE is anaerobically biodegrades to the persistent and more toxic vinyl chloride. To avoid such problems, most bioremediation projects are conducted in situ. Vinyl chloride can easily be broken down further if aerobic conditions are created.

Enhanced bioremediation of soil typically involves the percolation or injection of ground water or uncontaminated water mixed with nutrients and saturated with dissolved oxygen. Sometimes acclimated microorganisms (bioaugmentation) and/or another oxygen source such as hydrogen peroxide are also added. An infiltration gallery or spray irrigation is typically used for shallow contaminated soils, and injection wells are used for deeper contaminated soils.

Although successful in situ bioremediation has been demonstrated in cold weather climate, low temperature slows the remediation process. For contaminated sites with low soil temperature, heat blankets may be used to cover the soil surface to increase the soil temperature and the degradation rate.

Enhanced bioremediation may be classified as a long-term technology which may take several years for cleanup of a plume.

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