Sunday, July 23, 2006

Pig Poop to Pollution-Free Water

So, OK, maybe I'm trying to stretch the alliteration thing too far with that one, but the news that comes with that rather awkward headline is pretty cool. According to Yahoo! News (via Reuters), Finnish engineers have discovered yet another use for the smelly stuff:
Finnish engineers have poured pig manure into a contaminated pond next to an old mine, saying the bacteria in the slurry will clean up metals in the water.

Mining company Outokumpu dumped 450 cubic meters of pig slurry into the waste water near the closed Kangasjarvi mine, which once produced zinc, copper and sulfur.

"Pig slurry contains bacteria that bind metals that are in the mine water and they will sink to the bottom. We have used this system to clean mine waters at various mines," Eero Soininen, Outokumpu's mine reclamation manager, told Reuters.

"Around 15 years ago we noticed mine water got cleaned by itself at our Foldal mine in Norway. We studied the water and found bacteria that eat sulfides."

It takes around 2 to 4 years for sulfide-eating bacteria to get their job done.

I'm guessing this would only work in fairly limited situations, as naturally-occurring bacteria would only eat naturally-occurring substances. If it worked with heavy metals, though, I'd think this would be a very useful technique in a variety of contamination situations. I'm quickly getting out of my league here, so if you know more about such things, chime in... Still, it's great to see that scientists are discovering natural processes that could lend a hand with some of the messes we've made.

Via Hugg

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