There’s Life in the Pits

Apr 7, 2017

Environmental Enlightenment #199

One studies the mechanics of the cosmos through examination of subatomic particles.


water droplets on glass panel

And they examine the mechanics of life through sub-entities that make organic cells and bacteria.

Bacteria are in a class of the tiniest living organisms. They range in shapes from spheres to rods and spirals.

Bacteria were among the first life forms to appear on Earth. They are present in most habitats on the planet, growing in soil, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, water, and deep in the Earth’s crust.

Image courtesy of NASA (

We find bacteria in organic matter and live bodies of plants, animals and humans. 

Bacteria in the human body outnumber the human cells ten to one.

An ounce of soil can have over one billion bacterial cells, and one fluid ounce of fresh water can have 30 million bacterial cells.

The mass of bacteria on Earth exceeds that of all plants and animals.

In industry, bacteria are essential in the treatment of sewage, in the breakdown of oil spills, in the production of cheese and yogurt, in the recovery of gold, palladium, copper and other metals in the mining sector, as well as in the manufacture of antibiotics and other chemicals

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Bacteria often attach to surfaces and form dense aggregations called biofilms or bacterial mats. These films can range in thickness from a few micrometers (~25000 micrometers in an inch) to half a meter in depth, and may contain multiple species of bacteria. In natural environments, such as soil or the surfaces of plants, the majority of bacteria are bound to surfaces in biofilms.

An electron donor is a chemical entity that donates electrons to another compound.

Microorganisms, such as bacteria, obtain energy in the electron transfer processes. Through its cellular machinery, the microorganism collects the energy for its use. The final result is the electron donated to an electron acceptor within the organism.

Petroleum hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents, and soil organic matter are all compounds that can act as electron donors. These reactions allow organisms to obtain energy and are involved in the natural biodegradation of organic contaminants. When cleanup professionals use natural attenuation to clean up contaminated sites, biodegradation is one of the major contributing processes.

The rate of progress of biodegradation can be accelerated through various man-made technologies of enhancement. These technologies gently work with the earth and the organisms for faster eradication of invasive petroleum products.

The enhancement technologies accelerate what the earth with its subsurface dwellers would slowly do on their own. They energize the subsurface microbial community to expand fast toward larger, newer and farther conquests, overcoming barriers of tight silt and clay formations. The only by-products are harmless water and carbon dioxide.

There’s life in the pits, lots of it, and keeping to its mission of survival with primordial tenacity.


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