Bioremediation refers to the clean‐up of pollution from soil, groundwater, surface water and air using biological, usually microbiological, processes. It has left the laboratory and is established in some parts of the world, especially the USA, as a full‐scale, biotechnology‐based industry.

Keywords: bioremediation; bioaugmentation; bacteria; biodegradation; pollution; biostimulation

Figure 1.

Biodegradation of aromatic compounds and n‐alkanes.

Figure 2.

(a) Leakage from an underground storage tank. The contaminated soil and groundwater can be bioremediated in situ or ex situ. (b) Diagram of in situ bioremediation of subsurface hydrocarbon‐contaminated soil and groundwater. (c) In situ bioremediation of hydrocarbon‐contaminated aquifer by injection of hydrogen peroxide to provide a source of molecular oxygen and nitrate and phosphate to provide nutrients for the growth of hydrocarbon degraders.

Figure 3.

Bioremediation of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)‐contaminated river sediments. (a) Placement of steel caissons into sediments; chromatographic tracing showing full range of contaminating PCB congeners. (b) Nutrients added to sealed caissons lead to creation of anaerobic conditions: anaerobic dehalogenation converts higher molecular weight congeners to ones with fewer chlorines; chromatographic tracing shows disappearance of higher molecular weight congeners with 4–6 chlorines and increased concentrations of lower molecular weight PCBs with 2–3 chlorines. (c) Forced aeration and stirring create aerobic conditions; biodegradation of lower molecular weight congeners leads to cleaner sediments.

Figure 4.

Bioremediation of trichloroethylene (TCE)‐contaminated groundwater based upon injection of air and the cosubstrate methane to stimulate a bacterial consortium that can utilize methane and co‐metabolize TCE. Much of the TCE is biodegraded in the treatment zone. Residues in the extracted air are destroyed in a catalytic oxidizer.

Figure 5.

Permeable reactive barrier. Redrawn from U.S. EPA. 2004. Treatment Technologies for Site Cleanup: Annual Status Report (eleventh edition). EPA‐542‐R‐03‐009.

Figure 6.

Bioremediation techniques. (a) Landfarming and (b) windrows, at a large bioremediation site in the UK (courtesy of WSP Remediation.) This windrow is being turned, and it is evident that the heat generated by microbial action can be considerable.



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Further Reading

Alexander M (1994) Biodegradation and Bioremediation. San Diego: Academic Press.

Atlas RM and Bartha R (1997) Microbial Ecology, 4th ed. Menlo Park: Benjamin/Cummings Science Publishing.

Atlas RM and Philp JC (2005) Bioremediation: Applied Microbial Solutions for Real‐World Environmental Cleanup. Washington, DC: American Society of Microbiology. ISBN 1‐55581‐239‐2.

Cairney T (1993) Contaminated Land: Problems and Solutions. Glasgow: Blackie Academic & Professional.

Cookson JT Jr. (1995) Bioremediation Engineering: Design and Application. New York: McGraw‐Hill.

Hinchee RE and Olfenbuttel RF (eds) (1991) In situ Bioreclamation: Applications and Investigations for Hydrocarbon and Contaminated Site Remediation. Boston: Butterworth‐Heinemann.

Hinchee RE and Olfenbuttel RF (eds) (1991) On‐Site Bioreclamation: Processes for Xenobiotic and Hydrocarbon Treatment. Boston: Butterworth‐Heinemann.

Lerner DN and Walton NRG (1998) Contaminated Land and Groundwater: Future Directions. London: The Geological Society.

Martin I and Bardos P (1996) A Review of Full Scale Treatment Technologies for the Remediation of Contaminated Soil. Richmond: EEP Publications.

Sheehan D (ed.) (1997) Bioremediation Protocols. Totowa: Humana Press.

Swannell RPJ, Lee K and McDonagh M (1996) Field evaluations of marine oil spill bioremediation. Microbiological Reviews 60: 342–365.

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Philp, Jim C, Atlas, Ronald M, and Cunningham, Colin J(Mar 2009) Bioremediation. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000470.pub2]