Is groundwater clean and safe to drink anymore?

Monday, February 21, 2011

WASHINGTON - A researcher has examined society’s efforts to reverse and stop groundwater pollution, and the effectiveness of bioremediation technologies.

The technologies use microbes to clean up organic contaminants such as petroleum hydrocarbons (oil, gasoline or diesel) or chemicals used in the electronics or transportation industries.

Until now, the real difficulty has been in proving that the process exists and that the microbes are actually cleaning up the contaminants. Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Canada Research Chair in Isotope Geochemistry of the Earth and the Environment at the University of Toronto has developed techniques that show where the clean-up is happening and, just as importantly, where it is not.

“Elements like carbon have different stable isotopes: Carbon-12 and Carbon-13. One is slightly heavier than the other, and the microbes tend to feed mostly on the lighter one. When the microbes have been working for some time, the ratio of heavy-to-light carbon will change. It is this change-referred to as an isotopic signature-that lets us know the water is being cleaned up,” said Sherwood Lollar.

Sherwood Lollar has presented her research as part of the THINK CANADA Press Breakfast on the theme of water. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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