The EPA’s Citizen’s Guide to Cleanup Technologies Series 2: Bioremediation

Apr 30, 2017

Environmental Enlightenment #202

See our Newsletter, Environmental Enlightenment #200, for introduction to one highly valuable, plainly written series of Citizen’s Guides published by the EPA at

With this issue we introduce the EPA’s “Citizen’s Guide to Bioremediation.” You can reach it through the hyperlink given below, under the blue header.

Bio- in Greek means life.

water droplets on glass panel

Remediation means the action of remedying something, esp. the reversal or stopping of damage to the environment. (Collins English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003)

In Latin, Re- indicates a return to a previous condition, and mederi means to heal.

Thus, Bioremediation is healing through the power of life.


It stands apart from technologies that use chemical substances or…

…mechanical force.

The physical universe is an unmitigated, crass force. Its energies are programmed to collectively collapse and dissipate to frozen states of inaction. Though randomly elevated by uncontrolled explosions or upheavals, all energies will continue with their ingrained deterioration.

Photo: Sgt. Eric Rutherford,

In the exertion of force, be it chemical, mechanical or electric, we achieve random interactions that can be directed toward meaningful aims only through the intervention of life. An uncontrolled atomic fission will fry up a continent but through human direction can be channeled to power it up for generations.

Diablo Canyon Power Plant, San Luis Obispo, California
Photo by emdot at Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

Remediation through biological means is remediation through the most intimate contact that life can make with physical elements: the metabolic process of conversion of minerals to animated microorganisms. This very nature makes the metabolic process the one most efficient in the elimination of toxic substances from soils and groundwater. Witness millions of barrels of crude oil discharged in the Mexican Gulf that never saw the light of day.

Bioremediation uses microbes.

Microbes are very small organisms, such as bacteria, that live naturally in the environment.

Certain microbes use contaminants as a source of food and energy.

Illustration © Rod Nave, HyperPhysics

Like you and me and the plants in our gardens, microbes take in nutrients and oxygen that enable them metabolize their food, and in turn they release harmless water and carbon dioxide back to the environment.

Go to 
for the rest.

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