Dressing down groundwater contamination
Unlike the late Paul Newman, who bottled his special-recipe salad dressing and sold it in supermarkets, Dr. Robert Borden simply mixes up his own 'dressing' and pumps it into the ground. That’s because the environmental engineering professor and his graduate students are more interested in feeding microbes to clean up contaminated groundwater than in making just another Ranch dressing. “It’s really very similar to salad dressing,” Borden says of his creamy blend of soybean oil and other ingredients. “You could eat it if you want, but I don’t think you’d want to.” Borden’s recipe builds on the science of using microbes to cleanse soils and groundwater of toxic chemicals. Toclean up leaks from buried gas tanks, for example, it’s common practice to pump oxygen into an aquifer for aerobic microbes to break down petroleum.Chlorinated slvents like metal degreasers and dry-cleaning fluid pose a different challenge. Because anaerobic microbes can break off chlorine atoms from the compounds to 'breathe,” r researchers simply inject food into the groundwater for the organisms to feast on as they break down the solvents.
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