While some human beings, either privately or corporately, act irresponsibly by consciously or unconsciously damaging the environment, contaminating indiscriminately, affecting the different terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, extinguishing plant animal species; others work tirelessly looking for solutions to remedy and raise awareness about the consequences that these damages can have on our planet.
The use of biotechnology to remedy the serious deterioration of the environment is one of the forms that has had the greatest impact for the benefit of the human population and other species. Based on the definition most widely accepted in the international arena, we have it as “any technological application that uses biological systems and living organisms or their derivatives for the creation or modification of products or processes for specific uses.
Environmental policies should be aimed at achieving the sustainable developmentof each country, which implies that the use of natural resources be managed rationally and responsibly, from the point of view of prevention and from the application of new technologies that contribute to correcting the harmful consequences that affect our environment.
In this sense, biotechnology is a technological tool that contributes to sustainable development, offering solutions to serious pollution problems, for being an area of ??multidisciplinary application it is developed in diverse areas, such as: agriculture, health, production of food and, protection of the environment.
We will see that bioremediation, also known as environmental biotechnology, is a form of biotechnology that seeks to reduce the environmental pollutants, which has become one of the best alternatives that counteracts the use of products and physical-chemical processes, also directed to the same end.
General aspects of bioremediation
The indisputable need to remedy the impacts of industrial and domestic pollution, has prompted the creation of new technologies that are oriented towards the detoxification and disappearance of polluting substances, in contrast to the traditional waste disposal approach.
Background of Bioremediation
The term remediation was used for the first time in the early 80s, referring to remediation techniques that applied physical-chemical strategies that reversed or avoided the damage caused to soils, as a result of the constant contamination.
The use of microorganisms in biotechnology was carried out for the first time by the American scientist George M. Robinson, who set out to experiment with some microbes in containers contaminated with oil. Robinson thought that the environment could be decontaminated using microorganisms; From this experience to the present time, much has been achieved.
The new remediation will be done using biology, taking advantage of the potential of living organisms to degrade pollutants naturally; Generally microorganisms or vegetables are used.
So, from the activity carried out by the microorganisms could potentially reduce or remove potentially dangerous contents that are located in the environment , in order to clean contaminated soil or aquatic ecosystems.
We have then that the bioremediation are all those biotechnological processes aimed at achieving environmental sanitation, making use of the metabolic potentials of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, to eliminate contaminating substances or agents in water and soil. This is because these microscopic organisms and also some plants , have the ability to naturally transform some harmful and harmful compounds, to reverse this condition.
ADVANTAGES OF BIOREMEDIATION
The different methods used by bioremediation seek to completely eliminate contamination, although it is not always achieved in its entirety; It is not about transferring contamination from one physical state to another, as it happens in other treatments that use this type of technique.
Its use does not cause prominent risks in the environment
The basic inputs that are used, are products that the same environment makes them as part of their natural process, therefore, it is a very economic option that would reduce the costs of public budgets.
It consists of the use of fungi to decontaminate specific areas, specifically, through the vegetative body (mycelia) of this fungal microorganism difficult to access for observation and study. The aim is to use mycology for the purposes of bioremediation, based on studies such as those carried out by the American Paul Stamets, who consider the important work that mycelia can develop for the benefit of the entire planet.
The mycelia are the group of non visible filamentary ducts that are part of the structure of the fungus, which are commonly known for the function of decomposing organic matter in any ecosystem.
This ability to decompose organic matter gives the mycelium the ability to transform hydrocarbons into organic fertilizer, with criteria of economy.
Through this method an attempt is made to solve the damage caused to the environment by using the properties of the plants, which can, for example, absorb and then degrade contaminants from the soil; this would be a substitute measure for the common way of depositing the harmful materials in an underground place that has been determined suitable for that purpose, which at the same time would reduce costs. The substances that could be eliminated would be pesticides, solvents, hydrocarbons, as well as remains of precious metals that, in general, are toxic substances.
It is the decomposition by microorganisms, toxic materials that have contaminated the water. It is based on a process of stimulation of the existing bacteria in the affected area, in order to achieve that the hydrocarbons are biodegraded.
It consists of the extraction process of some metals that are embedded in the minerals, without making use of cyanide, as is customary in the traditional method of leaching. These new practices are used more and more in mining activity, because they have less ecological impact due to the reduction of soil contamination.
It is about decontaminating the soil of substances such as slurry, sediments or toxic sludge, incorporating them into the soil to be cultivated, which is removed several times in order to create a new composition. In short, the agricultural crop serves as a mechanism for cleaning or decontaminating the surface soil.
With this technique, the presence of hydrocarbons and pesticides can disappear, since, once the soil is mixed and plowed, which is contaminated with the soil in good condition, its oxygenation is increased, causing the microbial flora be stimulated and its reproduction accelerated.
It is the same mechanism of decomposition that occurs in a home composting system , only with a higher level of complexity, which is applied in industrial activities. It consists of generating chemical processes from the contact of microorganisms with chemical agents, controlled either with oxygen amounts or without oxygen.
This method is frequently used to transform contaminated waters produced by agricultural activity into organic fertilizers.
This is a method as old as agriculture itself, which is nothing more than turning organic waste into organic fertilizer, that is, natural fertilizer, which is then used to recover the nutrients in the soils that have been affected by the excess of activities agricultural or erosion processes.
The process is based on applying decomposition techniques in organic matter, either with a large amount of oxygen or without using this element.
Because of its simplicity, it is a very popular method in the fields worldwide.
It is a method of inoculation of previously modified microbial strains to efficiently accelerate the decontamination of soils and waters; The same bacteria that are present in the contaminated place may be able to clean or restore it, so increasing the number of these bacteria is the key to achieving the goal of biological remediation.
The application of this method is very common to treat wastewater from localities
The basic principle of phytoremediation (use of plants) is used, using the roots to filter the water and clean it of toxic elements or any other harmful agent.
The plants used in these filtering processes are grown hydroponically (the nutrients are not provided by the soil soil, but a serum with enriched content).
It consists in taking advantage of the benefits of the “bioremediating” bacteria that are in a polluted environment, modifying the environment to stimulate them and that they can develop to the maximum their capacity to detoxify and restore.
The affected environment can be modified by increasing the amount of nutrients that favor the growth of these useful microscopic organisms; also with the inoculation of genetically modified strains, as is done in biostimulation
Disadvantages of bioremediation
Although these are techniques or methods that apparently do not have a higher level of complexity, many of those who apply them do not do it correctly. Therefore, the consequences can become as polluting as the problem that was trying to be solved. For example, if the cycles are not completed, very serious changes are generated in the metabolism of the microorganisms that are being stimulated, which possibly can not be remediated later.
Each technique used must have a prudential time of application in which the expected results can be seen; In many cases of bioremediation application it is difficult to calculate the period of time that is required for the total development of the process, being able to generate more costs than those considered if the monitoring, control and extension stages are lengthened.
When the separation technique is executed, the waste that is generated must be treated or disposed of immediately, which causes costs to increase and other processes to be carried out.
Example of bioremediation
There are many cases of natural disasters that have occurred worldwide, as a result of oil activity. Generally oil spills are absorbed by the soil and consequently the water layer is affected.
Hydrocarbons are sensitive to biodegradation, some more easily than others. When a spill occurs in the water, the continuous movement caused by wind and waves produces mixtures of compounds on a microscopic scale. This is where the predominant bacteria such as pseudomonas, corynebacteria, mycobacteria, as well as seaweed and some yeasts, begin to process the degradation of those aliphatic and aromatic components, which can be oxidized by microorganisms.
In the Deepwater Horizon disaster (2010, Gulf of Mexico), where an oil rig exploded that produced the worst spill in history, bioremediation techniques were applied when it was verified that the spilled oil had bacterial activity. 951 bacterial subfamilies, which, possibly about 16 types contributed to the degradation.