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The waste problem

Bacteria degrade pollutants in soil, surface waters, and groundwaters. These pollutants include pesticides, vehicle and jet fuels, paints, organic solvents, and buried ammunition. Bioremediation scientists take genes from bacteria that metabolize these pollutants and insert the genes into bacteria that grow faster in nature. Bioremediation laboratories now have collections of bacteria that degrade chemical pollutants, detoxify metals such as mercury, or decompose radioactive compounds. Specialized bioreactors can grow biofilms on their interior surfaces (see Figure 7.1) and remove pollutants from water as it flows through the vessel. Bioremediation also seeks the bacteria that live in the acid drainage from ore and coal mines and which trickles 24/7 into more than 10,000 miles of U.S. rivers and streams. The traits enabling the bacteria to thrive in these places make them perfect gene donors for making bioengineered bacteria for mining pollution cleanup.


  

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