2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 3 Jul 2003 18:09:48 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Microbe Can Eat Toxic Waste Underground
The following article was posted by Susan L. Gawarecki <loc@icx.net>

Microbe Can Eat Toxic Waste Underground
Associated Press Writer
July 2, 2003, 9:48 PM EDT

Scientists have identified a microbe that gobbles up toxic waste deep
underground, offering a potential way to clean up a particularly nasty
chemical that has contaminated the water underneath hundreds of the
nation's industrial and military sites.

Microbiologist Frank Loeffler said the bacterium, known as BAV1, was
found in soil samples 20 feet down at a hazardous waste site in Oscoda,
Mich. BAV1 flourishes in the packed earth where there is no oxygen,
feeding off certain toxic compounds, he said.

Other microbes that eat toxic waste have been discovered over the years
and are used in some limited fashion to clean up contaminated sites.
However, this is the first one found that thrives on vinyl chloride

Vinyl chloride is one of the most common and hazardous industrial
chemicals. It can linger in the soil for hundreds of years and is
present at about a third of the toxic Superfund sites listed by the
Environmental Protection Agency. It usually accumulates as a
deteriorated form of more complex compounds found in dry cleaning fluid
and metal cleansers.

Brief contact with vinyl chloride can cause dizziness, drowsiness and
headaches. Long-term exposure can raise the risk of a rare form of liver
cancer, according to the EPA.

Loeffler has already tested the bacterium on vinyl chloride at the
contaminated site in Michigan. Its ability to eat the toxic
compound -- and render it harmless -- was hastened in one test by adding
plant fertilizer and other nutrients to the soil. In another trial,
vinyl chloride was destroyed by injecting the soil with concentrated
amounts  of BAV1 developed in the lab.

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