In this article, the possiblities of treating unusable water with biotechnology is described, citing the example where “toxic water that wells up, threatening to decant from disused mines, and the rising tide of sewage produced by urban sprawl – both threatening the East Rand right now. Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has provided a bug that can sort out the problems in the acid water drainage, but this bug needs certain nutrients to sustain it. These nutrients just happen to exist in raw sewage. Put the bug, the minewater and sewage together and the bug digests the sewage while it facilitates the chemical reactions that make the metals and other pollutants settle out of the minewater. Clean water (a precious commodity) and useful inorganic by-products come out at the other end. These include sulphur, metals, algal bio-products and sulphuric acid.
Experience has shown that toxic mine-water could continue welling up for centuries – mines dug by the Romans are still decanting. And the sewage problem is here to stay. This means our communities will be dealing with both in the long-term. Expensive, high-tech solutions are not feasible. Biological processes with hard value as a by-product mesh with the development realities of both today and tomorrow, reconciling economic and environmental goals.”
EBRU is an institution of Rhodes University which targets research in Environmental Biotechnology at the interface between the fundamental and applied sciences. Its main area of focus has been innovation and development of environmental bioprocesses related to water treatment.
Its basic research activities are supported by a strong emphasis on technology transfer from laboratory studies to full-scale industrial process applications, and a number of bioprocess plants have been constructed in various parts of South Africa.
The research focus of EBRU has targeted the advancement of sustainability through beneficiation of saline, domestic and industrial wastewater beneficiation of micro-algae for high value products and bio-fuels, and the exploitation of solid waste for use in agriculture and industry e.g. Weathered coal.
Traditional Biotechnology poster (400KB) – from sour milk, yoghurt and cheese, to beer and wine, biotechnology has been applied in many traditions.
Fun, cartoon-story poster exploring biotechnology eaten and drunk every day.
Department of Science and Technology, Public Understanding of Biotechnology Initiative
Biotechnology poster (140KB) – the everyday applications of microbes in health care, agriculture and beer.
Department of Science and Technology, Public Understanding of Biotechnoogy Initiative
SAASTA and DST glossary of biotechnology terms (30KB)
From AIDS to Y chromosome and many more!
“Remediation” means to “remedy” an environment. Bioremediation has never really caught on as an answer to environmental problems because of the time it takes, despite often costing less than dig and dump solutions.
2009 Theresa’s Biotech / Biomedical Blog on About.com
Top 10 Common Biotech Terms You Should Know (95KB)
You read about advances in biotechnology every day in the newspaper, and hear about it on TV, but sometimes the science is a little over your head. Brush up on your knowledge with explanations for some common biotechnology terms to help you understand some of the latest breaking news…
2009 Theresa’s Biotech / Biomedical Blog on About.com
Biofacts – an Australian Government Initiative (160KB)
2004 Biotechnology Australia Factsheet Number 14
A two-page glossary of biotechnology terms
Bioremediation allows natural processes to clean up harmful chemicals in the environment. Microscopic “bugs” or microbes that live in soil and groundwater like to eat certain harmful chemicals, such as those found in gasoline and oil spills. When microbes completely digest these chemicals, they change them into water and harmless gases such as carbon dioxide.
EPA (in the USA) uses many methods to clean up pollution at Superfund and other sites. Some, like bioremediation, are considered new or innovative. Such methods can be quicker and cheaper than more common methods. If you live, work, or go to school near a Superfund site, you may want to learn more about cleanup methods. Perhaps they are being used or are proposed for use at your site. How do they work? Are they safe? This Citizen’s Guide is one in a series to help answer your questions.
2001 United States Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Biotechnology (33KB)
Biotechnological processes to protect the environment have been used for almost a century now, even longer than the term ‘biotechnology’ exists. Municipal sewage treatment plants and filters to purify town gas were developed around the turn of the century. They proved very effective although at the time, little was known about the biological principles underlying their function. Since that time our knowledge base has increased enormously. This briefing paper describes the state-of-the-art and possibilities of environmental biotechnology. It also deals with the societal aspects of environmental biotechnology.
This briefing paper reviews the various areas of environmental biotechnology together with their related issues and implications. The overall aim is to provide balanced information and advance public debate.
1999 European Federation of Biotechnology, Task group on public perceptions of biotechnology