Bioremediation is the process that uses microorganisms to return the natural environment changed by pollutants to its natural state. Bacteria were used to clean up the oil spill off the coast of Alaska roughly 20 years ago.
The oil industry uses bacteria to clean up pollution created by spills and underground leaks, and to clean up waste products from oil production.
EPA and other entities use bioremediation because it takes advantage of natural processes. Polluted soil and groundwater can be cleaned at the site without having to move them somewhere else. If the right conditions exist or can be created underground, soil and groundwater can be cleaned without having to dig or pump it up at all. It also prevents the release of harmful gases into the air. Because microbes change the harmful chemicals into water and harmless gases, few if any wastes are created.
Often bioremediation does not require as much equipment or labor as most other methods. Therefore, it is usually cheaper. Bioremediation has successfully cleaned up many polluted sites and is being used at 50 Superfund sites across the country.