Friday, March 11, 2011

Can Salad Oil Fix a Toxic Mess?

By Brittany Shann

About 450 homes in Pompton Lakes have been affected by the spread of cancer-causing solvents from a nearby munitions factory. These solvents have contaminated groundwater underneath the homes with tetrachlorothene and trichlorothene and have been vaporizing into the households. These solvents have been correlated with kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and elevated levels of these cancers were found in residents of a neighborhood near the former DuPont manufacturing plant.

As a way to potentially solve this problem, scientists have discovered that the injection of vegetable oil into the ground may help to break down the toxins that have been linked with cancer. According to, "The oil acts as food for a type of organism, called halo-respiring bacteria that naturally occur in the soil. Adding the oil gives them more nutrients and enables them to become more active, which spurs them to break down the solvents in the groundwater." The process is called enhanced anaerobic bioremediation, which is not too well-known but is most commonly used among environmental scientists and cleanup experts during the past few years.

Since it is a generally new process, rates of success are still mainly unknown. Scientists will most likely use soybean oil because it is the most cost-effective and it will still do the intended job. This project should begin within the next few months and if it is successful, it will be spread to a greater portion of the neighborhood by 2012. However, the contamination will most likely not be cleaned up for years.

The test will begin at the area where the toxins are most concentrated, which is at Barbara Drive at the intersection with Schulyer Avenue. The bioremediation materials will be injected into the soil periodically underneath Barbara Drive.

DuPont will submit a report on the success of the tests by June of 2012.

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