Bugs are everywhere

Natural decomposition processes take place all around us. Most people do not think about it very often, but microorganisms help our society every day to make the environment cleaner. Whether it concerns sewage treatment, composting organic waste or cleaning up contaminants in the soil, these “bugs”, as our customers often call them, play an important role.

At Bioclear earth we like to work with these “bugs” to break down contaminants in places where conventional techniques are often not technically feasible or too expensive. Think of, for example, the treatment of soil and ground and surface water, or the application of the biological decomposition processes in air and water filters. We use a wide range of bacteria and fungi that are able to break down the contaminants present. I sometimes feel like David the Gnome who is going to solve a new problem together with his "bugs".

Experience has taught us that every contamination is slightly different and that we need to look carefully at each location to see how we can use biological degradation processes optimally. We assess which techniques we can apply, but also which biological processes and therefore which “bugs” we can use to achieve the intended result. Our cooperation partners are living organisms who have their own living conditions and requirements in order for them to carry out their work for us. The trick is to find the right combination of techniques, organisms and conditions to achieve the biological breakdown of contaminants. It is an enjoyable challenge not only to find the right solution for our customers, but also to keep our "bugs" happy so they can do the work for us. While doing this, you really start looking at bacteria and fungi in a different way. They are rather important colleagues who are working hard to make the environment cleaner.

Plants can also play an important role in this clean up by stimulating soil life in the root zone and thus accelerating the decomposition of contaminants. This technique is known as phytoremediation and includes several processes that can be used in various ways. Central to each of these processes is the close cooperation between plants and microorganisms, but also the cooperation with humans. Our task is to create the right set-up so that plants, bacteria and fungi can work together to break down the contamination. This is not always self-evident, but it is a process upon which we, as human beings, can have a major influence. I find it very satisfying when my piece of created nature, including plants and microorganism, is capable of removing contaminants.

In our field, we come across contaminants that are completely unknown when it comes to the potential for degradation. In addition, our society does not stand still and we, as humanity, are constantly producing new chemicals that end up in the environment.

Amazingly, it turns out that nature often has an answer for these situations and is capable of more than you might think. The same groups of “bugs” that are already used for the breakdown of classic pollutants, such as chlorinated hydrocarbons and mineral oil, are also able to break down these complex, new substances. Even complex substances such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Dealing with these issues, we often work on the edge of what is known. This requires the ability to apply new insights and discoveries from the research lab in practical contamination situations in the field. This challenges your thinking skills. As a result, working with “bugs” and plants in relation to the breakdown of contaminants always remains interesting.

In short, the possibilities and applications of biodegradation are endless! The question that remains now is how we can use nature with all its "bugs" and plants in order to help you in making the environment cleaner? My colleagues and I are happy to assist you!

Freek van den Heuvel

Freek van den Heuvel
Consultant water quality and phytoremediation