TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 3 (UPI) — Israeli researchers say a naturally occurring ocean bacteria could be used to help clean beaches polluted by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University say the oil-munching bacteria, being grown in the university labs, can clean hard-to-reach oil pockets that occur when oil mixes with sand and organic matter, a university release said Tuesday.
By studying its genetic background, developing methods of growing the bacteria, and increasing its ability to digest oil, they say they’ve developed a solution that could clean up residual oil that can’t be removed by mechanical means.
“It’s worked to clean up an oil spill on the coast of Haifa, Israel, so we’ve already got good evidence it could work in Florida too,” Professor Eliora Ron said.
Sucking up surface oil pools and containing the oil are important and necessary first-step actions, she said, but the bacterial solution addresses the smaller amounts of oil left behind — that isn’t easily removed from sand and water.
“The problem is huge and even with just a little bit in your lungs, oil is bad,” Ron said. “Even when cleanup crews reduce the amount of oil at sea, there will probably be enough left behind to kill birds and wildlife.”
At this level of oil removal, she says, the only solution is bioremediation — using nature itself to do the final cleanup.
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