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Disasters & Extreme WeatherOil SpillsScienceWater

Possible Gulf Oil Solutions : Will Bacteria Help Clean the Deepwater Horizon Spill?

Seeking out the most efficient and sustainable solutions to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster has been a challenge. Bacteria is one such solution that can help clean the nightmare that is the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Natural microbes present in every ocean are superb cleaners, and with the addition of a bit of fertilizer they could prove successful in removing oil from the Gulf. A quick dusting would help the microbes multiply and then they would dine on oil en masse until it’s gone.” ~Inhabitat.com

Some scientific research points to the water samples from the Gulf of Mexico that are showing signs that marine bacteria are already pitching in to help with clean-up efforts, and populations of these bacteria in this area are likely to boom as they dine on the oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. There are so many kinds of remediation bacteria out there to be researched. Bioremediation as a field of study is catching on and new strains are being identified. “Among these are members of the Vibrio family, which includes the species that causes cholera. Grimes cautions that there is no evidence that this species is one of those that breaks down oil, although other Vibrios that cause human infections do.” ~New Scientist

In addition to the examples given by New Scientist, there are many more bacteria available on earth that eat up oil, for example:

the discovery is strain NY3 of a common bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa was isolated from a site in Shaanxi Province in China, where soils had been contaminated by oil. P. aeruginosa is widespread, and can, rarely, cause serious infections.”  Some strains also have useful properties, including the ability to produce a group of biosurfactants called rhamnolipids (that eat up oil) offering compelling advantages over their synthetic chemical counterparts made from petroleum, the researchers give the following examples:

  • rhamnolipids are non-toxic biodegradable.
  • NY3 has an ‘extraordinary capacity’ to produce rhamnolipids that could help break down oil and degrade PAHs.
  • they have already been tested and work.

What do you think about using bacteria to help clean the ocean? Do you think is it possible for these new discoveries in healing bacteria to help immediately? Is this a sustainable project for oil spill clean-up?

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