First I would like to start with the definition of Microbes so we all have a general idea of what they are.
Definition of a Microbe- Living material too small to see. Some microbes cause disease in humans, plants and animals. Others are essential for a healthy life, and we could not exist without them. Four common groups of microbes are bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts.
There has been a lot of talk and questions as to why they have not tried IN-SITU BIO-REMEDIATION PROCESS on the gulf oil spill. I am far from a scientist, so I can only go on what I research, have been told and what has been explained to me by some in the field.
When I first heard of this process I automatically had to know more. Why would they sit on such a fantastic product or process? Then my next question was where could we get this product. As you might have realize a few companies have a version of what they call “oil spill eaters”, but I wanted the same one they used and experimented with in Alaska back in 1989. The very same product that Dr. Russ Chanelli has been on talk shows and news networks mentioning. He was the lead Exxon chemist at the time they experimented with it in Alaska and sounded like he knew what he was talking about. Now on a mission, I started where we all start, the Internet searches. Searching different keywords and combinations, I was hitting dead ends when it came to research in this field for oil spills on water.
Watching numerous YouTube videos and wading through plenty of bio-remediation on ground water testing, I could not help but think it was a great answer for the gulf spill. Videos showed how clean the beaches became in just a short period of time. How adding fertilizer helped the microbes do their job and how effectively sped the process up. But like my mom always said, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
I finally found a company I thought manufactured this miracle product and they had a 1-800 number. I quickly found out, they were hired to promote the product. But what is this product? Before phoning and making a nuisance out of myself, I went to their website to get to know a bit more about this company called Ultra Tech International. I found out they supply certain types of oil products like spill decks etc. Reading the usual hype on how much better their products are, I searched the site for Microbes and Bio-remediation, finding very little that was not already known or claimed by other companies, I decided to call.
At first I was greeted by the usual, how may we direct your call, automated answering. Finally I pressed zero and I was greeted by a secretary. Very politely I asked if I could speak to someone regarding in-situ bio-remediation for oil spills; she sounded stumped. Then I said, you know the microbes that eat at oil, Oh sure, one moment. She patched me through to a very patient employee, whom we will call Fred.
After the idol chitchat and explaining I was not with any form of newspaper or traditional network that I was just in search of some answers because I was concerned with the gulf. He sounded relaxed and proceeds to explain to me some of the basics about how it works. Pretty much what we all can find out by running the name or process in the search engines. That is when I explained I was having a hard time finding out results on these studies and what if any effects they have on humans or cross contamination with other microbes. That is when Fred told me that the biggest reason is those who created the original products have either retired or have died. Research pretty much stopped except for the odd company.
The daughter of one of the founders of the product took over and hired them to promote the product. I asked if he had a name or a number of who manufactures the product and he said he did not and the person who did know was out of the office and could be for a fairly long time due to the fact he was down at the disaster in the gulf. I found this answer odd, considering if they have the product, promote this product how come they have no clue who manufactures the product and why if this person who has the answers is in the gulf, not insisting on them trying this product or process. Maybe it was because this product did not seem to have a name. At no time did he give me a name or the name of the process they use and better yet, this so called daughter of a founder of the product with no name had no name either. I am sure that Fred was reading from a manual as to what protocol was in place for anyone who asked about “The Product.” Suddenly Forrest Gump came to mind. “Stupid is as stupid does.” I knew it was a long shot picking up the phone considering they have connections to Exxon, but hey I had to try, the 1-800 number was just too inviting to pass up.
So next stop was the Exxon site. I did not find much about PRP (petroleum remediation product) but I did find some interesting things out. In the event of an oil spill, Exxon Mobile is a founding member of every major oil spill response center worldwide. This explains a lot about how the BP spill is being handled. And why the dispersant EC9500A was used. Leaving me with the all mighty question, if Exxon is in charge, then why have the Microbes not been attempted yet?
Now I am even more curious, as well as even more disgusted with Exxon than I already was. They still have not paid the people affected by the Exxon spill in Alaska and are making sure to keep it tied up in the courts for many more years to come. Is this the future of Louisiana and all those effect by The BP spill? Is Exxon riding in the back seat, giving BP directions? I am not sure about you guys, but to me it explains the actions and the cover-ups BP tried to pull at the beginning. Not releasing the footage of the spill until forced to, not giving accurate accounts of the true amounts of oil being released, and now the release of names and contingency plans that were in place found to be filled with people who have been dead for five years or can no longer be contacted. All too familiar scenario if you ask me.
More determined than ever, I have to find out why even Exxon is not hinting or pushing for the Microbes to be used. What does Exxon know that we have not found out? What are they hiding? If you speak to the people of Prince William Sound, they are glad to tell you that even in 2010 things are not back to normal. Dig a foot or less below the sands and you will find oil still. Exxon claims it is there naturally from the ground. Exxon is quick to express that the salmon returned within five years, what they do not mention is the herring, which at one time Sound was the capital herring producers; they are still very scarce to date. They never did rebound after the Valdez disaster, along with other marine organisms and marine life. Knowing the people are still bitter and waiting to be paid compensation, I need to seek out more information.
Typing in the right combination of words, there it was, Bio-remediation on marine oil spills. A PDF file that took forever to load. Reading through the endless pages about the different types of microbes, how they work naturally and what is needed for these natural Microbes, I finally came to the meat and potatoes I was looking for. The test results from Alaska. The possible toxicity of the fertilizer components used in the microbes test area. They were found to be mildly toxic to oyster larvae and sensitive marine species, it went on to say. However it was limited to the shorelines where the fertilizer was used and never reached toxic levels. I say does it matter how toxic it is if it affects any kind of marine life than that is one kind to many.
Giving where credit is due and in the name of science, I did not want to judge too harshly considering it was in the test phase at the time and it sounded like an environment-friendly solution to a bad situation I continued to read. The Oleophilic fertilizer they used contained a constituent known as butoxyethanol that could be harmful to humans and animals that come in contact with it. In fact, they had to avoid inhalation or skin contact when it was being applied. Yet they stated it was only mildly toxic and this constituent evaporated with in 24 hours of application. If this were mild, I would hate to see the real toxic version. I think even though these findings seemed a bit shocking, what I read after is what sent me into complete outrage. In the conclusion of this PDF, they said that even though bio-remediation cannot always be considered safe or free from possible risks in all circumstances, the evidence nevertheless suggests that risks will be unimportant in most situations.
I am sorry, but even though it was written in the mid 90’s, I have to say, when will any risks be considered unimportant? This comment reminded me of when they though H1N1 was not a risk till people started dying. Not a wonder why Exxon did not jump to push Microbes or in-situ bio remediation; they would rather the subject not surface by the sounds of things. And as for Fred, I would not push to advertise or mention the products name, procedure or manufacturing company either.
Knowing our readers would never for give me if I did not use all my resources, I decided to take one more stab at what else I could find on Microbes. I phoned around and was given a name of a renowned expert in the field. Dr. Terry Hazen. Type in his name and sure enough there is an article dated May 4, 2010 where Dr. Hazen comments on the Gulf oil disaster.
Dr. Terry Hazen is a Microbial ecologist from Lawrence Berkeley Labs Earth Science Division. He not only is an expert in the field of Bio-remediation, he has studied some of the most horrific oil disasters sites. In the article he started off with the 1978 disaster off the coast of Normandy, stating that because of the size of the spill, they only treated the areas of greater economical impact. They treated the areas with detergents at the time, only to find they did more harm then good. Five years after the spill the untreated areas fully recovered, but 30 years later the treated areas still have not fully recovered.
Wow, and they allowed BP to use dispersant EC 9500A, a product that obviously Exxon had knowledge about and knew what the risks of using such a product might hold for the environment and marine life. But will get into that product on another day.
Then it goes into Exxon disaster of Alaska, sure enough his findings not only backed what I mentioned earlier, they added to what I now call the cover up. Detergents were used once again and Bio-remediation was used with fertilizers to promote microbial growth. According to Dr. Hazen, the first year looked good in appearance, but by the second year it did not look like it had change and yet a change did occur. It threw the ecological balance off and the long-term impact of the treatments used will effect the environment for decades to come.
If I had any doubts, they are gone. What better way to cover your butt than to play into the hands of an environmental generation? Fund a bunch of scientists to do eco studies, go on television and show how you used an environmentally friendly way to treat an oil spill and then hope it all goes away. If anyone asks, cover it up by showing it works in the treatment of ground water, or land spills in areas already dead from drilling or testing products. Like Dr Hazen said in a video I found, what better way then to sell the public a product? It is cost effective and there is no compound known to man that micro organisms cannot degrade.
Just a little tidbit on microbes. Microbes are not new, there have been billions of years of microbial evolution on earth, but only brought to our attention since the 80’s. Those who claim that the microbes die off or do not survive once the nutrient source runs out obviously have not read the new studies or have not spoken with Dr. Hazen. They can divide every 20 minutes, capable of four simultaneous mutations in every gene in less than an hour, survive in temperatures below -12° and even live in radiation and saturated salt waters. They can live for decades on little nutrients to feed off and less then 2mgs of water.
Although Bio-remediation can be beneficial in some aspects in the fields of study and show some potential for the future, when it comes to oil, I think it should remain in the labs until they can be absolutely positive it will not harm any part of an eco-system, human, animal or marine life. Let nature take care of the Microbe process as it has for billions of years and come up with something that will work. Better yet just stop offshore drilling.