Microscopic organisms could help Ocean Springs attack oil - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Microscopic organisms could help Ocean Springs attack oil


By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Marshes surround the city of Ocean Springs and they are a haven for all sorts of wildlife.  But tar patties and other oily materials threaten to ruin the fragile habitats. So the city is looking for a natural solution to attack the oil, if it invades the marshes.

"This is Pseudomonas Bacteria. Pseudomonas has an affinity for petroleum products," said John Cambre, co-owner of Waste Oil Collectors of Gautier.

Cambre held up a jar of blue liquid. Floating in the liquid were trillions of microscopic bacteria.

"You can take this bacteria, put it on hydrocarbons, oils, and it will literally degrade it or eat it up," said Cambre.

Ocean Springs hired Cambre's company to help determine which enzyme is best at breaking up the oil and which types of bacteria can eat up the oil the fastest.

"They're like asleep. And when they wake up, they're ready to eat and if you have that food source available to them right away, they just go through it like gang busters and eat it," said Cambre.

The products would be sprayed over the surface of the water.

"It would be a lot like seeing a farmer spraying his fields," Cambre explained.

They are considered safer to use, especially around sensitive marshes.

"This is what's going to get the oils out of the grass, rather than pulling them up. After they clean the tar patties off the beaches, this is what you would spray down to get that last little bit off," said Cambre. "After a certain point, there's not enough food for everybody, so they just die off. There's no chemical residuals or anything like that left."

The tests should be done by the end of this week, and the results will be turned over to the city of Ocean Springs. If the city decides to move forward with the project, it will need to seek the necessary permits and present the proposal to BP for funding.

"They're not a cure-all and not a magic bullet," said Cambre. "These are something that we're going to be supplementing the natural bacteria, to hasten the removal of the oil."

Micro Methods of Jackson County is conducting the tests for Waste Oil Collectors. One area of concern they're looking at is whether the enzymes and bacteria can cause the oxygen levels in the water to drop. Plus, the city doesn't know yet how much it would cost to implement this plan.

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