Microbes used to clean oil spill

Microbes used to clean oil spill

After successfully demonstrating the potential of the bacteria, the scientists may also clean up Colaba (south Mumbai) and Uran where the oil from the slick migrated in the last two weeks. Deccan Herald first reported on the microbial solution 10 days before it was put to use.

Tonnes of oils from half-sunk vessel MSC Chitra floated to the pristine Alibaug beaches. It was restricted to a 1.2 km stretch, which Maharashtra Pollution Control Board gave to The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi for the microbial clean up.

“In Awas village (Alibaug area) we first collected the oil in a pit and applied oil-zapper (the bacterial concoction). The entire area was cleaned in one day. Nothing remains except pure sand,” TERI scientist Banwari Lal who headed the operation told Deccan Herald.

The oily material was collected in a 25 mt x 10 mt area segregated by high density poly-ethylene line manually and also with JCB. Volunteers from the National Cadet Corps were also roped in for the job.

The TERI team has surveyed two other spots in Colaba and Uran. It was awaiting for the official permission, he said, adding if not treated the oil would stay in those spots for years.

Last year, oil-zapper – a concoction of five oil-eating microbes – was used by TERI and Indian Oil Corporation to clean up an oil slick near Paradip following an accident. IOC has successfully used it to clean up many sites contaminated by crude oil and oil sludge.
Lal and his colleagues have also come up with another microbial mixture for bio-remediation that can be used on the sea itself within hours of any oil slick. However, that solution could not be used in Mumbai as the Coast Guard was not aware of the oil-zapper.

By the time, Lal contacted the Coast Guard, the oil had already moved to the shore. The Coast Guard, subsequently, recommended the microbial solution to the MPCB for cleaning up.

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