Microbes used to clean up soil contaminated by petroleum | PostIndependent.com

Microbes used to clean up soil contaminated by petroleum

RULISON, Colo. — Garfield County is using microbes to help control problems associated with local oil and gas development as part of a pilot project to see if the tiny organisms can help clean soil contaminated by petroleum.

Officials hope to use the treated soil to cover major waste storage areas because clean soil is hard to find in the oil and natural gas drilling areas around Rulison.

County officials hope the test will be successful because it could help energy companies by eliminating the need in some cases for companies to ship contaminated soil to out-of-state facilities, including Utah.

“This is a groundbreaker, and I don’t mean that as a pun,” Garfield Commissioner Mike Samson said.

Gary Webber, vice president with Northwest Colorado Consultants Inc., an environmental and engineering firm, said state air regulators developed a cleanup standard for the new facility.

Webber called the system an environmentally responsible way to protect public health and the environment. The system also allows the landfill to accept materials that officials were barred from accepting previously because of their high contamination level, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported (http://tinyurl.com/gttnyaf ).

The system started in July, and by Labor Day, the soil was clean. Officials are waiting to see how the system will work in cold winter, because the microbes depend on heat.

Companies will be charged fees to support the project.

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