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TYPES OF

BIOREM EDl AT10 N

Bioremediation can be broken down into four categories:bacterial


remediation, mycoremediation,phytoremediation, and compost
bioremediation.

BACTERIAL RENEDIATION

Bacterial remediation is the process of using bacteria to break down


molecular contaminants like hydrocarbons into simpler, safer com­
ponents. It can be accomplished by culturing (breeding) bacteria in
high numbers and then introducing them into a contaminated area,
and/or by turning the affected soil into an ideal habitat for bacterial
growth.
Large numbers of beneficial bacteria can be introduced into soil
by brewing something called compost tea or through use of a prod­
uct called Effective Microorganisms.

THE ECOLOGY OF BACTERIA


Bacteria are simple, single-celled organisms found in abundance in
almost all regions of the world. They are found in diverse environ­
ments, from extremes like the human intestine to bot oceanic sulfur
vents. A single teaspoon of healthy garden soil contains over a bil­
lion of them. Although often associated with disease, most bacteria
are not harmful to humans. Many are essential to human health.
Ten percent of human body mass is made of bacterial cells.’

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Bacteria may be aerobic (oxygen using), anaerobic (non-oxygen.. 3.)

using), or somewherebetweell the two on an overlapping continu­


um. Aerobic bacteria are typically found in healthy soil. Anaerobic
bacteria are found in low-oxygen environmentssuch as pond muck,
poorly maintained compost piles, and intestinal tracts. While some
,~~

anaerobes are pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms, many, like


acidophilus and lactobacillus, are essential to effective human di­
gestion. ..
,

COMPOST TEA

Compost tea is a waterbased, oxygen-rich culture containing large


populations of beneficial aerobic bacteria, nematodes, fungi, and
protozoa, which can be used to bioremediate toxjns. It is made by
adding an inoculant and a food source to non-chlorinated water
and aerating it. The microorganismspresent in the inoculant rapidly
multiply when put in oxygen-rich water with ample food. This brew
is applied to contaminated soil, where the microbial populations go
to work breaking down certain types of molecular contaminants.
The ease and low cost of making compost tea make it a method of
bioremediation with the potential for widespread application.
.
THE COMPONENTS OF
COMPOST TEA
INOCULANTS
A cup ofworm castings make an ideal ihoculant for compost tea.
The castings can be harvested from a worm composting box or
bought from a specialty nursery. Worms have no digestive acids
in their stomachs. Instead, they use bacteria to break down food.
Worm excretion is an excellent fertilizer in itself, rich in beneficial
bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. Another inoculant choice
is aerobic comuost. teeming with microbial life. It is important for

BlOREMEDlATlON I 185
the compost to have been well-made, or few beneficial critters will
be present.
B e inoculant is put into a nylon stocking that is suspended into
the water. This allows the microbes to enter, but prevents the pas­
sage of larger objects that could clog a sprayer's screen filter during
application.

FOOD
Rapidly reproducing organisms need food to fuel their cellular &vi­
sions. Microbial foods are added to compost tea to help the process
along. The most commonly used foods are molasses, humic acid,
and fish hydrolase. The molasses, which should be unsulfured, is
widely available at grocery stores. Humic acid and fish hydrolase,
both fertilizers, need to be purchased from garden stores.
Molasses primarily feeds bacteria, while humic acid and fish
hydrolase feed fungi. Bacterial teas enhance annual gardens, while
trees prefer fungal teas. A mixture of these foods will create a fin­
ished tea with both bacteria and fungi, which is ideal for remedia­
tion of contaminants.

WATER
Chlorine, a powerful microbicide found in municipal water, will
kill the microljial life being cultivated in compost tea. Whiie it
is far preferable to use collected rainwater or healthy pond water,
municipal water can also be dechlorinatedby allowing it to sit un­
covered for at least 24 hours. Most of the chlorine will volatilize
during thisperiod. Aerating the water speeds up the process.

AERATION
Proper aeration is critical. As compost tea is being brewed, the
population of microorganisms is rapidly expanding. Like humans,
aerobic bacteria need oxygen for survival. ?here needs to be enough
oxygen present in the water to keep the bacteria alive. If too little

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oxygen i s available, anaerobic organisms will begin to grow instead.
Some anasrobes produce alcohol as a by-product, which is harmful
to plants. A small aquarium pump connectedto a n airstone will
supply sufficient aeration for a 5 - g d o n batch of compost tea.

BREWING A N D APPLYING THE

TEA

T h i s simple recipe for 5 gallons o f compost tea can be multiplied for


larger batches.

How to: Supplies needed:

1.Fill the bucketwith non-chlorinatedwater. (If using tap


5-gallon bucket
water follow the instructionsabove first.) Water temperature
One aquarium pump with airstone
is ideally between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Put the airstone in the bottom of the bucket, attach the air (bubbler)
pump, and let it start to bubble. K cup of food
3. Put the inoculant in the stocking, tie off the end and 1cup of inoculant
suspend it in the water. Squeeze the stockinggentlyt o One nylon stocking
release the organisms into the water.
Wateringcan or backpack sprayer
4. After an hour or so, add the food.
5. l e t the whole brew bubblefor24 t o 36 hours. After 36
hours, the microbesbeginto die, oxygen levels drop, and the
tea can become dangerously anaerobic. If the tea received
insufficient oxygen or too much food, anaerobic organisms
will overcome the beneficial aerobic organisms. It will be
obvious if the tea went anaerobic, because it will stink! If that
has happened, pour it out away from garden plants and start
over.
6. Pour the mixture through a strainer to remove large debris.

APPLICATION
Once the tea has been brewed and removed from the oxygen, it
must be applied within four hours, before it starts to go anaerobic.

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,
?he tea can be applied to the'soil
pack sprayer. Applying to moist soil is
rainstorm is aperfect time. Rememb
that need to be put in an.envi
it is dry,spray the ground with non&MorinafedMt&
plying the tea. ,-
'.

If the tea is for,bioremediation,apply it


conditioning*ere contarninationis not B concern,'ddu' ih$&V'rI
%+th five to ten parts non-chlorinated water.
' . '

gallon on l$OO square


I , tion rate would'not be.

I'

, .

,BlOREMEDlATlON1 189
EFFECTIVE

MICROO RGAN ISMS

Effective Microorganisms (EM) is a trademarked product made


by several different companies. It is basically a liquid culture
of microorganisms consisting of yeasts, anaerobic bacteria, and
photosynthetic bacteria. There are many claims for EM uses,
from enhancement of agricultural production to wastewater
treatment and remediation of toxins. What sets it apart from
compost tea is that EM bacteria are facultative anaerobes.
Unlike the strictly aerobic bacteria found in compost tea, fac­
ultative anaerobes can survive in both oxygenated and oxygen-
lacking envjronments. ?his allows EM to be bottled with a long
shelf life, unlike compost tea, which must be applied shortly
after being brewed. EM microbes include the bacterium Iucto-
I
bacillus, which is found in our gastrointestinal tract and helps us
digest dairy, and the yeast Succhurornyces cereoisiue, which is used
to ferment beer. Containers of EM can be purchased at specialty
nurseries or over the internet.
EM is a n effective alternative to chlorine bleach for mold
abatement. It was used successfullyfor mold remediation in New
Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. After leaks in mold-stricken
homes were repaired and mold was scraped off of surfaces, EM was
sprayed. The organisms in the EM competed for space on the sur­
faces with the mold spores, and either slowed or stopped regrowth
of mold.
Compost tea and EM differ in that EM only contains 8 to
12 types of organisms, while compost tea contains thousands.
Compost tea’s diversity is what makes it desirable for use in
remediating toxins-it is moie likely that one of those thou­
sands of organisms will be able to break down a particular
toxin.

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