A new bioremediation process developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) is making the difficult job of removing chlorinated solvents from groundwater much easier.
Finding solutions to groundwater cleanup has long been a challenge for industry professionals. Groundwater plumes contaminated with chlorinated solvents are common and typically present unique obstacles related to the chemicals' high density and low solubility.
North Wind Environmental, Inc., a locally owned engineering and consulting firm, has obtained a license to use the INEEL's innovative process called Bioavailability Enhancement TechnologyTM (B.E.T.).
B.E.T. was tested at the INEEL's Test Area North (TAN) with very good results. Scientists were trying to find a cost-effective way to clean up the underground aquifer beneath TAN, which was contaminated with organic sludge and wastewater, resulting in a two-mile long trichloroethene (TCE) groundwater plume.
TCE, used extensively for degreasing and one of the most common groundwater contaminants at hazardous waste sites in the United States, had been injected into the aquifer over a period of 15 years.
While laboratory tests performed at the INEEL and elsewhere had shown the potential for success of TCE bioremediation, the results in the field far exceeded expectations. Not only did TCE concentrations in the source area drop below detection limits, but breakdown of the TCE also was increased.
"TCE contamination is one of the most prevalent environmental problems in the world," said Lyman Frost, INEEL Technology Transfer director. "This is an excellent example of teaming between industry and national laboratories. The technology was conceived and developed at the INEEL, and by transferring this technology to the industrial sector, it will be rapidly applied across a wider spectrum of needs."