2018 | USA | Braden Milford

The Development of a Novel Heavy Metal Bioremediation System

Water issue adressed: Too dirty
Pulling samples from a Colorado river

“The goal of the project was to create a cost-effective, low impact system to remove heavy metals from water systems. First two field studies, both at EPA Superfund Sites, were conducted. At these sites, seven heavy metals concentrations were measured along the streams and water samples were taken. 250 bacterial strains were then isolated from the water samples. The bacterial isolates were screened for heavy metal resistance and successful biofilm formation in heavy metals. 24 bacteria that showed the greatest potential for heavy metal remediation were then selected from the group and identified with a 16S Ribosomal Subunit Analysis. To create the system, the bacteria were combined with mixed algae in an immobilized format called a sodium alginate bead.”

This is how I came up with the idea for this project:

I came up with the idea of the development of a novel heavy metal bioremediation system last year when my family was on a backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains, I was struck by the bright red stains left along the sides of several mountains from old, abandoned mine sites. Even worse was the cloudy red water flowing into a reservoir that is used as a drinking water source for the millions of citizens of the City of Denver. With more research, I was greatly disturbed to find that this is neither new nor unique. Abandoned mines have been leaching heavy metals into water systems for nearly one hundred years. In addition, there are an estimated 500,000 abandoned mine sites in the United States alone, and because mining has been instrumental to the advancements of the world, abandoned mines are found in similar concentrations in nearly every corner of the world.