Researchers discover bacterium that detoxifies chlorinated pollutants

A bacterium discovered recently by scientists at Georgia Institute of
Technology may open the door for designing more efficient and successful
bioremediation strategies for thousands of contaminated sites.

Scientists and engineers have struggled for years with cleanup of groundwater
and subsurface environments contaminated decades ago by unregulated use of the
common solvents tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). These toxic
compounds are primarily used in dry cleaning operations and degreasing of metal
components. Complicating the situation are natural biotic and abiotic processes
that transform these solvents to intermediate substances, such as toxic
dichloroethenes, and cancer-causing agents, such as vinyl chloride.

But in a step forward, the Georgia Tech scientists successfully used a
naturally occurring bacterium, designated Dehalococcoides strain BAV1, in a
pilot study conducted at the Bachman Road residential area, a location
contaminated with PCE by a former dry cleaning operation in Oscoda, Mich. The
result was complete dechlorination of PCE to ethene within six weeks.

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