Thursday, March 10, 2011

Can Soybean Oil Help Dupont's Vapor Contamination?

By Amanda Nesheiwat

DuPont has permission from the state to use soybean oil to get rid of contaminants in groundwater in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.Groundwater under a large part of the town has been contaminated by carcinogenic chemicals by DuPont, a chemical using company. DuPont plans to inject soybean oil into the soil to be a catalyst for microbes that would consume the chemicals.

According to news,hazardous chemicals such as tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene have been vaporizing into about 450 homes near Dupont’s explosive-manufacturing plant. A bioremediation specialist affiliated with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come up with what he believes would be a good solution for the contamination. He proposed that DuPont should inject soybean oil deep underground in an area of the neighborhood to test the outcome. The oil will serve as food and nutrients for microbes that naturally occur in the soil called halo-respiring bacteria. The oil will help excite these microbes which will alter the geochemistry of the groundwater allowing the microbes to eat the contaminants and release them as non-toxic byproducts.This method is deemed environmentally friendly and is cheaper than extracting, pump-and-treat or using other difficult measures to clean the contaminated groundwater.

An even cheaper and environmentally friendly way of keeping a community clean would have been to realize the effects of a chemical industry on groundwater and taken prevention measures. DuPont would not have had to get state approval to conduct experimental clean-up projects if the state of New Jersey would have monitored the operations of this company.

Some experts warned that even if injecting the oil does work, it will take many years for the groundwater to be clean. Others have warned that this kind of project has been done before in different soil and landscape and that there haven’t been enough studies done to see what the effect of this will be in Pompton Lakes. DuPont and affiliations to the EPA should recognize that Pompton Lakes has wetlands and oil can be dangerous to such a vital system.

They will begin the test area in a few months and from the results will figure out if it is an appropriate method for the rest of the neighborhood. It is unclear how many years this will take or how effective soybean oil can be. Meanwhile, Dupont is still operating a pump-and-treat system at the former plant site that was designed to reduce the level of contamination over time.

Here is a picture of how the process will look.

Source: The Record of Bergen County

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