Bioremediation Agents, Common Misconceptions

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Bioremediation Agents, Common Misconceptions

BIOREMEDIATION is defined as the use of microorganism metabolism to remove pollutants. This is a technology that harnesses the natural character and action of certain beneficial microorganisms to return toxic sites to their pre-spill condition. This technique has existed and been utilized in Superfund land cleanups for decades. Those agents that support the natural process of the microorganisms indigenous xii to the environment where the spill has taken place have the best record.

One of the broad concerns with bioremediation products is that many contain foreign microbiological cultures and/or nutrients that increase the growth rate of the microorganism population to unnatural levels. Most countries do not allow products with foreign species or microbes in them to be introduced into their ecosystems due to unpredictable interactions and side effects that may occur and/or develop over time that would be detrimental to maintaining the delicate balance in these environments.

A pertinent example of this would be the cane toads that were brought from Hawaii to Australia in 1935 in an effort to control the native cane beetle destroying their sugar cane crops. The toads, being nonindigenous (not native to that region), adopted another food source, became a dominant in the environment anyway, but failed to control the beetle populations. The same is true for mongooses that were introduced to St. Croix, USVI, in the 1880s to control rat populations. Instead of doing this, they adopted ground- nesting birds and snakes as their key prey, significantly depressing those populations, and they themselves became dominant in the terrestrial community, having no impact on the rats. Hence, most oil spill cleanup bioremediation products have been placed in the same category as these ill-conceived introductions and have mistakenly been positioned with scary “bio-monster” connotations. Some feel that these organisms could potentially alter and adversely affect the natural biodiversity when newly introduced into marine environments and coastal areas.

NCP-listed Bioremediation Agent EA Type, however, is a very different bioremediation process than what is generally defined and understood in the industry and contains no microbes.


The toads in Australia and the mongooses in St. Croix serve as good examples of why we should guard against the intrusion of nonindigenous species so that future problems can be prevented.

NCP-listed Bioremediation Agent EA Type, however, is a very different bioremediation process than what is generally defined and understood in the industry and contains
no microbes. It is therefore important to understand precisely what this technique is.

As a first-response alternative that complies with the Clean Water Act by removing the oil rather than dispersing it and increasing toxicity, the ‘EA’ category has already been carefully considered, extensively tested, and scientifically proven, and as such should be immediately preapproved as a primary method of first response.

Recently the US EPA Regional Response Team VI (RRT VI), which, along with RRT IV, oversees spill response plans in the Gulf of Mexico region, sent a request to their Science and Technology Committee to evaluate Oil Spill Eater II (OSE II), a first-response bioremediation agent (EA Type). The product being nontoxic to marine species, wildlife, and responders has been in use for 23 years on over 23,600 spill cleanups in the United States and in numerous other countries.

As part of this review, the OSEI Corporation CEO (S. Pedigo) lent his expertise to the EPA’s RRT VI Science Committee as a member of their Bioremediation Guidance Review Subcommittee. The purpose of the subcommittee was to assist the RRT VI to update the Bioremediation Guidance for the NCP, the last review of which was done in 2001. What resulted was the discovery of important omissions in the EPA guidance documents, which contain no mode of action or proper defnitions for the three main types of bioremediation: 1) microbiological cultures, 2) nutrient additives, and 3) enzyme additives. Subsequently, new guidance was compiled and submitted for federal and state interagency response network use.

To ensure this vital information is available, we have inserted the updated guidance, as proposed, in this position paper.

We strongly recommend this document be added to the National Response Team (NRT) and Regional Response Teams (RRT) IV and VI Bioremediation Guidance for the National Contingency Plan (NCP), as well as to Regional Contingency Plans (RCP) and Area Contingency Plans (ACP).

We are pleased to present BIOREMEDIATION TECHNIQUES, CATEGORY DEFINITIONS, AND MODES OF ACTION IN MARINE AND FRESHWATER ENVIRONMENTS, herein published for all industry stakeholders: oil companies, responsible parties, the Coast Guard, and state and local responders. For those engaged in the development of safer oil spill response plans, who are looking to minimize natural resource ruin while greatly reducing the cost of oil spill response, this newly updated guidance paper will likely provide welcome answers and solutions.

Important Note: The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization has no fnancial ties of any kind to, nor does it receive any financial benefit from, companies that manufacture and/or sell the bioremediation oil cleanup products we advocate. As clearly covered throughout this position paper, our interest is purely to bring this information forth for education purposes and open up a global conversation to the result of implementing greatly improved spill response methodology.

xii. indigenous. A description of a living organism (plant or animal) that is native to a specifc geographical region.