- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
In my last blog post on June 30, I mentioned the work of Dr. Ralph Portier, an environmental biologist and professor at Louisiana State University. He had produced a 30,000 batch of a mix of bacteria that could conceivably devour the petroleum penetrating the marshes. That was all of the space that he had available and he was ready to deploy. He just needed permission from the government.
First of all, this technology is not new. It has been demonstrated in countless sites around the world in many types of environments and found to work quite will and quickly under the right conditions. Under any normal situation, if there were any questions as to the ability of a particular environmental technology to be effective, a site or small area is set aside and controlled for a test. The test area is closely monitored and results determine the feasibility of its application for that particular environmental situation.
In this case however, on July 15, 2010, Dr. Portier was informed in writing that his technology would not be needed for this event as existing bacteria in the marshes had sufficient nutrition available to do what they do naturally. No further efforts would be needed, at least until the leak was contained. The news articles I read did not say which government agency responded to Portier.
Natural attenuation is always considered by any reputable environmental engineer. I would agree that in all likelihood, there are existing natural bacteria in the gulf waters and marshes that like to devour petroleum. My reasoning is that there are natural seeps in the Gulf of Mexico that ooze millions of gallons every year and that material is naturally absorbed by that ecosystem.
That being said, I have problems with the government letter to the professor at LSU for a few reasons. The opportunity to learn more about the bacteriological process here is huge. It could save so many millions of dollars in so many ways from what we could learn. It could dramatically accelerate the cleanup process. It would greatly improve the public relations for our government and BP should it prove to be successful and with the track record of bacteriological deterioration of petroleum contamination, there is no reason to think it would not work.
So, the question is, why was this offer turned away. I really do not know. Could it be that the professor talked with a reporter and the story was released on June 30? Were the feelings of some bureaucrat bruised? Did BP crush the plan because they did not want to pay for it? Is BP planning to bring in another company to do the same thing later and did not want this professor to do the work? Has a government agency already collected samples and conducted laboratory studies to determine a natural attenuation rate? I have no idea.