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Your Environment. Your Health.

Bioremediation of Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE)

Superfund Research Program

Dr. Kate Scow, a researcher in the University of California, Davis (UC-Davis) SRP, recently participated in a fruitful collaboration with Tesoro Petroleum and Haley & Aldrich Engineers that led to the successful bioremediation of a methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) -contaminated drinking water aquifer in North Hollywood, CA. An ex situ bioreactor was colonized by native groundwater microbial communities, as demonstrated using molecular tools developed in Dr. Scow’s lab, that removed MTBE from groundwater at a very rapid rate. This led to the full treatment of the MTBE plume in the aquifer without the addition of non-indigenous organisms. Working closely with the Upper Los Angeles River Area Watermaster and regulators from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Dr. Scow’s research team obtained permission to reinject the treated water back into the aquifer (rather than discharge it to a sewage treatment plant which was standard practice). The project won the award for "Outstanding Project in Ground Water Remediation Award" in 2005 from the National Groundwater Association (NGWA). An article in the LA Daily News by Kerry Cavanaugh, described Dr. Scow’s research as: "'Good bugs' cleaning up water tainted with MTBE". The research was also featured on Sacramento News10 at 11 on ABC and in the Fall 2005 newsletter  "earthWorks" .

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