Contaminated sediments and water can result from agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and urban activities. Remediation techniques for contaminated sediment include excavation and landfill, acid leaching, capping, incineration, and bioremediation. The costs can range from $10 to $3000 per cubic yard, depending on the contaminant. For contaminated water, filtration, followed by either chemical or biological treatment, is often the method used. Bioremediation, the use of living organisms (primarily microorganisms and plants), is emerging as one of the most useful alternative technologies for removing contaminants from the environment, restoring contaminated sites, and preventing further pollution.
Bioremediation takes advantage of natural filtering and transforming properties of plants and microbes. Constructed wetlands, with their associated microbial mats and aquatic plants, have been used for many years to treat agricultural, municipal, and industrial wastes. Microbial mats, which are a consortium of microbes dominated by blue green algae, produce very sticky substances which allow the mats to be attached to various fibrous materials, in this case, polyester fibers. Waste water trickles down through the mats, which are on a series of vertically stacked trays, and is passed over reeds and bulrushes to transform waste solids into dry humus. Another example of bioremediation is the addition of nutrients to oiled shorelines after oil spills to accelerate the natural degradation of oil hydrocarbons. Wastes from a variety of activities, such as effluents from shrimp or catfish ponds, leachates from waste sites, and effluents from power plants, have been treated in this facility using mat bioreactors. Contaminants removed from the waste water include metals, ammonia, suspended solids, and pesticides.
Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, Clark Atlanta University, and Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SkIO) received funds to construct the Bioremediation and Environmental Research Mesocosms (BERM) facility from the Georgia Research Alliance.
Prior BERM Research Projects
A waste effluent treatment system based on microbial mats for black sea bass recycled-water aquaculture. PIs: Dr. Judith Bender (Clark Atlanta University), Dr. Richard Lee (Skidaway Institute), Dr. Peter Phillips (Winthrop University) [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]
Summary : Initial pilot investigation of a microbial mat-based waste disposal system for aquaculture.
Genetic regulation and anaerobic microbial catalysis of mixed waste bioremediation PIs: Drs. Marc Frischer and Keith Maruya (Skidaway Institute) and Dr. Joel Kostka (Florida State University) [Office of Naval Research]
Summary : Graduate student support to investigate microbial reductive dechlorination pathways of sediment-associated polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Biogeochemical factors affecting microbial transformation of co-occurring contaminants in sediments from a saltmarsh Superfund site PIs: Drs. Marc Frischer and Keith Maruya (Skidaway Institute) and Dr. Joel Kostka (Florida State University) [Office of Naval Research]
Summary : Multidisciplinary investigation on biogeochemical controls and bioavailability limitations associated with the transformation of co-occurring mercury and PCBs in contaminated anaerobic saltmarsh sediments.
Controls on plant bioavailability in salt marsh environments which can be manipulated for contaminated sediment remediation PIs: Drs. Richard Lee, Marc Frischer, Keith Maruya (Skidaway Institute), Dr. F. Michael Saunders (GIT), Dr. Richard Meagher (UGA) and others. [National Science Foundation]
Summary : Multi-disciplinary, multi-institution investigation on the role of Spartina in natural attenuation processes for recalcitrant contaminants at a estuarine Superfund site.
Interactive roles of microbial and Spartina populations in mercury methylation processes in bioremediation of contaminated sediments in salt-marsh systems PIs: Dr. F. Michael Saunders (GIT), Dr. Joel Kostka (Florida State University), Dr. Marc Frischer [Environmental Protection Agency]
Summary : Multi-disciplinary, multi-institution investigation of interactions between the saltmarsh grass Spartina alterniflora and salt marsh sediment bacterial communities capable of transforming mercury.