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Red tape keeps Gulf marsh cleanup on hold: Project to spray oil-eating bacteria awaits go-ahead

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TomCADem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 10:05 AM
Original message
Red tape keeps Gulf marsh cleanup on hold: Project to spray oil-eating bacteria awaits go-ahead
Edited on Wed Jun-30-10 10:07 AM by TomCADem
Source: MSNBC

At a lab on Grand Isle, La., at the edge of Barataria Bay, biologists hoping to help save the oil-soiled marshlands are at the ready with a vat containing 30,000 gallons of homegrown oil-eating bacteria. But its been weeks since the oil started washing up here, and still they await final clearance to begin work.

Its frustrating for the scientists, who plan to spray large sections of the soiled marsh with this microbial stew consisting of nutrients and three naturally occurring bacteria that eat oil to help rid the fragile ecosystem of toxic oil.

This approach known as bioremediation is effective, especially if it is done soon after the oiling, they say. And it does less damage than some of the traditional methods used in marsh cleanup, such as burning and skimming.

But getting approval from the bureaucracy assembled to respond to the BP oil spill is slower than trudging through marsh mud in waders.


I am posting this to show the corporate media narrative at work attacking the Obama administration, and how even liberals may buy into this narrative. Now think about it. What is being proposed is to unleash an artificially grown bacteria into a fragile ecosystem. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?

First, does it work? Second, even if it does work, what happens to this bacteria in a fragile ecosystem? Third, what happens when the oil is gone, does the bacteria obediently die away?

This story is on the front page of MSNBC, and the focus on the article is an attack on government regulations against simply allowing folks to unleash a lab grown bacteria into a fragile ecosystem. Look at the comments that follow, which rail against BIG GOVERNMENT!

So, instead of the BP oil disaster being about our over dependence on oil, the power of oil companies, and lax and non-existent regulation of deep ocean drilling, the narrative is about government over regulation!

Yes, up is down, and waiting a couple of weeks to study the impact of unleashing a lab grown bacteria into a fragile ecosystem is considered a bad thing. Perhaps, more money should be invested into prevention and remediation technologies BEFORE an oil disaster, rather than having a night at the improv where Bobby Jindal postures before the cameras and demands federal dollars to bulldoze what little remaining sand is in the marshes so that he can show he is taking action!

Of course, the media generally ignores the fact that the Audubon Society is extremely skeptical of Bobby Jindal's plan, but why not trust the sponsor of the DOER Act, which deregulated off shore oil drilling in 2006 on environmental matters?

You didn't know that? Yes, Congressman Jindal's sponsorship of the 2006 DOER Act is one of the more egregious examples of the corporate censorship going on.
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izquierdista Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 10:26 AM
Response to Original message
1. Here are your answers
1) Yes, it does work. It's not a cure all for all situations, but when done right, it works.
2) The bacteria is a natural part of the ecosystem, and your "artificially grown" is a red herring. What is artificial is the amount of bacteria food that is currently being dumped on the ecosystem. The first thing that can eat it (the bacteria) are going to have a feast and multiply like crazy, naturally occurring or inoculated from somebody's culture.
3) Yes. Once their food source is gone, they will be eaten by protozoans and microscopic animals, and those numbers will spike and so on and so on up the food chain.

There is no need to "wait a couple of weeks"; the people developing this technology are in the same situation as Kevin Costner's brother -- they have been carefully working on their idea for years, and now the situation that they were preparing for has arrived big time. This oil spill is a big laboratory and every scientist and engineer who has been squirreled away should be invited to demonstrate what he can do. In a short time, what works best will become apparent and more resources can be added to that effort at the expense of those that don't.

If you understood the EPA's process for getting products put on the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule, you would see that it is a Catch-22 of "first you have to demonstrate the product, but this disaster for which we have no solutions is no place to demonstrate your product". Regulation works well when you have an established process and want everyone to stick to the rules. A bioremediation of unprecedented scale does not fall into that category and you have to rely on human judgment instead of a set of rules. As far as whose judgment, I would trust the scientists who have been studying the problem over people who want to pray for deliverance from the oil or administrators with a law background.

P.S. I doubt it is "home-grown" bacteria. How many people keep a 30,000 gallon bioreactor in their home?
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Mark D. Donating Member (420 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 12:20 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Good Points
The O/P means well. But again, grown in an unnatural environment (the bacteria) doesn't change that it's all natural bacteria. It's in the water of the Gulf, right now, all three strains mentioned, and it is eating the bacteria. Trouble is, there's not enough of it to make a dent. It does feed on oxygen. That's my only concern that depleted oxygen could create dead-zones as marine life needing it lose in competition to the bacteria. So it's not a gulf-wide solution. But in just the area of the shore they are looking at, it can work. Go to YouTube and look up 'oil eating bacteria' or 'oil eating microbes'.

The best part is as the food supply (oil) vanishes, the bacteria die off. The bacteria and the waste product they make are 'food' for those up the food chain. The video shows it tested in a previous gulf spill, successfully. Especially in marsh clean-up. It also shows shrimp going crazy for the waste the oil eating bacteria give off. The next steps up in the food chain from the bacteria know what to do with the waste product and bacteria itself. Nature seems to have a way to deal with that stuff. But nature clearly cannot deal with the oil without the help of such things. Especially fragile marsh-land.
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Blandocyte Donating Member (830 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 12:24 PM
Response to Original message
3. What could possibly go wrong?
If the bacteria were to mutate and begin being a problem, we'll just dump some antibiotics on them. :puke:
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sulphurdunn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 12:25 PM
Response to Original message
4. It doest seem as though
this cleanup effort is not operating in full 24/7 emergency mode. With access to the best scientific minds on the planet, light speed communication and data retrieval, pro or con decisions about things like this can and should be made in days or hours, not weeks.
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Trillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 12:28 PM
Response to Original message
5. Seems like spraying oil-eating microbes at the point of oil release
is a good idea. Particularly, at the point where they're also spraying dispersants, also inject oil-eating microbes, right into oil at the gushing wellhead itself. Perhaps also inject some in any existing underwater plumes that are found.

So, how's the effort to plug that well going? That seems the best long-term fix. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure this will be a global problem, if it isn't already.
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groundloop Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 01:29 PM
Response to Original message
6. This (and many other possible remedies) should have been tested years ago
Again, as to the op's point, this mess is being spun as being of President Obama's doing. These things should have been tested, approved, and made ready for use years ago. Instead, Cheney's secret energy meetings did away with any chance of regulating big oil or making them prepare for such a disaster.
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TomCADem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 03:43 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Agreed, My Point Is Look At The Oil Industry's Defense Of Their Contingency Plans...
The argument about the EPA's redtape complains that there has not been adequate opportunity to test the oil eating bacteria for safety because it can only be field tested in an actual oil spill. Well, isn't this the same argument the oil industry is making about its contingency plans for stopping a deep ocean leak? Like an oil spill, is there a way to shut down the bacteria once they are released into the habitat? Unlike Costner's centrifuge, you cannot turn it off, and you may not have the luxury of a do-over.

My main point is that these oil cleaning technologies should be developed LONG before an oil spill, rather than simply trying them out in the field, particularly when you are talking about introducing thousands of gallons of living bacteria into a fragile ecosystem. Now, we are hearing about everything from oil eating microbes to the use of nuclear weapons.

The worst part is that we are buying into the notion that simply engaging in activity is akin to achievement even if there is a risk that you might be making the situation worse.

Calling something natural or a nutrient does not mean it will not cause harm. Heck, if this were the case, then Tyson Foods should be given a clean bill of health for releasing millions of gallons of agricultural waste into surrounding areas, which leaches into the ground, and into streams and rivers a run-off.
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annabanana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 07:08 PM
Response to Original message
8. Kicking in honor of critical thinking, and as a very good example
of how the "mainstream" media frames things for your delectation.
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