Environmental Enlightenment #198
By Paul Zumberge and Ami Adini - November 27, 2012

This is a SHORT, LIGHT and SIMPLE newsletter. Its purpose is to rekindle in the initiated terminology they have once learned, and enlighten the uninitiated on terms they may have heard but never knew the meaning of.

Flow-through Barriers

Flow-through barriers…, an oxymoron at first blush!

Unconsolidated soil and rocks, when filled with water, make aquifers.

Aquifers are subsurface formations of soil and rock that are saturated with water. By their very nature, aquifers are made of pores and particles. The groundwater fills the pores. Some rock formations are more or less porous than others.

For example: Clay is 50% empty space; sand is 25% empty space, and semi-consolidated sandstone is 10% empty space.


Contrary to the notions of some, aquifers are not subterranean lakes or rivers. Take a swimming pool, fill it with sand to the brim, put water in the bottom two feet and you’ve got a two-foot thick aquifer on your hand.The water inside the aquifers can be stationary, or it can be moving. The movement of water inside aquifers is a function of the make of the aquifer, how fast it is being recharged, its elevation above the sea and the amount it slopes.When groundwater is contaminated with hazardous substances, we immediately get interested in its movement: how fast? Where? Any wells down the line? Any beneficial use threatened?

When groundwater moves, it carries the contamination with it. The contamination may be entirely dissolved in the water, like sugar, or it can float freely on the water table and slowly slide downhill through the soil. We have a case of tens of thousands of gallons of free gasoline pushing forward across a major thoroughfare into properties on the other side.

The study of water goes back to ancient times. Since humans first settled along the banks of lakes and rivers, there has been great interest in the appropriate management ofof fresh water resources both as a necessity for life as well as to avoid potential health hazards. It was along the Indus in Pakistan, the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia, the Hwang Ho in China, and the Nile in Egypt that the first hydraulic engineers created canals, levees, dams, subsurface water conduits, and wells as early as 5000-6000 years ago. Hydrologic information became vital to these early civilizations. (Hubbart 2008)The Romans developed aqueduct systems reflecting an extensive practical understanding of hydrology and hydraulics, and did so utilizing the basic hydrologic ideas established and passed along by the Greeks (Dingman 1994).

During the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci (1500) in France proclaimed on the basis of field observations that the waters in rivers come from precipitation. (History of Hydrology, Jason Hubbart 2008, Encyclopedia of Earth)

Why so much interest in water? Water is essential to every aspect of life. Much of our drinking water comes from underground sources (aquifers). Water to irrigate crops comes from both surface sources as well as pumped from aquifers. We all have a great interest in reliable, safe water resources. Water is life.

When contaminants find their way into our water systems, we need to remove them. With leaks often penetrating several layers of the subsurface, the most effective method for total remediation would in theory be in the total removal of the impacted soil and groundwater. However, this would also be disruptive to business, destructive to the property, hazardous, and terribly expensive. Out of necessity, other methods developed that provide less than total remediation. With these methods, projects take long to complete, sometimes as long as 10 to 15 years. Costs of remediation vary with the size of the project from hundreds of thousands of dollars into the millions.  

Over the years, remediation methods have progressed to soil washing, high volume , vapor extraction, vapor-water (dual-phase) extraction, injection of chemical agents, surfactant treatment, and remediation through the activation of naturally occurring bacteria in the subsurface (bio-remediation).

In cases where existing technologies cannot reach target cleanup goals, the contamination is left to degrade over time; a snail-slow process that leaves cases open indefinitely and hampers real-estate transactions.  

Traditional bio-remediation is a step in the right direction but has been ineffective for real-time results. With varying degrees of effectiveness and high costs, the industry has been in need of a better solution.

Subsurface Metabolism Enhancement (SME, pat. #6,464,005) is a new development of the old, ineffective bio-remediation methods in the direction of producing total remediation in record time. It is an aerobic, in-situ method of hydrocarbon remediation. SME gently works with the earth and the organisms for total eradication of invasive petroleum products. Treating the subsurface organisms in their habitat as an inclusive, organic eco-system, SME accelerates what the earth with its subsurface dwellers would slowly do on their own.

We have a series of processes designed to work together in activating, energizing and sustaining microbial consumption of hydrocarbon contamination. Even more, SME energizes the subsurface microbial community to expand fast towards larger, newer and farther conquests, overcoming barriers of tight silt and clay formations. The only bi-products of SME are harmless water and carbon dioxide. How does the process work?

A series of small-diameter nutrient-injection wells are installed throughout the contaminated area. The wells feed regular microbial-digestive nutrients that stimulate microbial activity and then sustain it with periodic feeds. Another series of small diameter wells are spread throughout the area for extraction of the carbon dioxide that is generated in the process. The ingenuity of the design is in the control of the delicate balance between feeding and removal of the waste product. Like any other living organisms, vitality and function are optimized through proper feed and regular evacuation of waste. Environmentally compatible nutrients are the only chemicals used and no structures need to be removed. Carefully designed site plans allow for business to operate as usual while the system silently works 24/7 below the surface.  

SME is organic, natural and less expensive than traditional methods; it’s also effective beyond any existing levels of performance of the technologies of yesteryear. With up to 99.99% eradication, SME far exceeds EPA standards. With multiple sites cleaned in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and South Carolina, SME has proven effective in diverse environments. In short, SME revolutionizes the remediation industry and doing it organically, unobtrusively, at lower cost than traditional methods and to levels of cleanup never achieved before. (Ellis, 2012)

Click here to see graphs for Hydrocarbon Reduction Cases

When contaminated water is moving through an aquifer toward a beneficial use such as drinking water, irrigation water or wildlife habitat, SME can be used to destroy the contaminates by microbial consumption before reaching the beneficiary, leaving behind only water and CO2. This can be done by installing the system perpendicular to the flow of water within the aquifer. As the contaminated water moves through the supercharged microbial mass, the system effectively forms a barrier to the contaminates by consumption and clean water flows-through on its way to the beneficial user!

Click here to see Flow Through Barrier diagram

SME is used for petroleum-based hydrocarbons and SMEcl is used for solvent based hydrocarbons. SME is simply extraordinary!

For information or questions, contact,

Paul Zumberge.

SME patent #6,464,005 is licensed to Ami Adini & Associates, Inc., for implementation in California.

This letter contains sections copied from original writings by Mark Ellis.

You can find past issues of "Environmental Enlightenment" at www.amiadini.com Wealth of information about environmental site assessments in the real estate transactions and issues concerning assessment and cleanup of contamination in the subsurface soil and groundwater.

Call me if you have any questions. There are no obligations.

Ami Adini
Ami Adini & Associates, Inc.
Environmental Consultants
Underground Storage Tank Experts
323-913-4073; 323-667-2336 fax

Ami Adini is a mechanical engineer, California Registered Environmental Assessor, Level II, and president of AMI ADINI & ASSOCIATES, INC. (AA&A), an environmental consulting firm specializing in all phases of environmental site assessments, rehabilitation of contaminated sites and upgrading of underground storage tank facilities. AA&A specializes in practical solutions to environmental concerns using the highest standards of ethics and integrity while providing its clients with maximum return on their investments.

Image of light balast taken by Dmitry G and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. This image is distributed under the same copyright.