Microbes can help ‘eat’ oil – DENR exec

August 28, 2006

By Blanche Rivera

MICROBES can help cleanse the shores of Guimaras Island blackened by a massive oil spill from a sunken tanker off its coast, according to an official from the corporate arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

A group of three microbes, aptly called “Pristine Sea,” eats the hydrocarbon content of oil, Ray Francis C. Alcoseba, president of the Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC), told a press conference Monday.

In Inampulagan Island, Guimaras, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo thanked local and international groups for their assistance in the clean up of a massive oil spill from a sunken tanker off Guimaras.

At the same time, Arroyo said Australia and France have pledged to help the Philippines in the clean up operations.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard is trying to contain an oil slick headed for Cauayan town in southern Negros Occidental province, 119.9 kilometers south of here, said Iloilo Coast Guard chief Commander Harold Jarder.

Jarder said an aerial survey showed the slick was thick in some sections and came in several long streaks, some stretching a half kilometer long.

Cauayan is home to beach resorts and the Danjugan Island Marine Sanctuary, an important resting place for migratory birds.

The direction of the slick on Monday has moved from a northeasterly to easterly direction, threatening southern Negros Occidental, Jarder said.

He said Coast Guard vessel 002 was chasing the slick from ground zero to the Cauayan and spraying it with dispersants.

At the press conference Monday, Alcoseba said three microbes – Pseudomonas azelaica, Serratia marcescans, and the Xanthomonas maltophilia – die as soon as they have eaten the oil, up to 87% of which consists of hydrocarbons.

Left by itself, oil degrades over time through a process called biodegradation, but it takes a long period. Bioremediation, on the other hand, is the introduction of organisms that can hasten biodegradation, Alcoseba said.

The DENR will ask Petron to purchase from the United States a bioreactor machine that can produce the Pristine Sea at a rate of 100 million/milliliter, Alcoseba said. A medium-sized machine costs $500,000 according to Alcoseba.

Solar I, carrying about 2 million liters (500,000 gallons) of bunker oil, sank off Guimaras on August 11 in rough seas, then began spilling oil that has affected a 220-kilometer stretch of coastline.

(Condensed from Inquirer and AP reports, Aug 28, 2006. Click here for the full stories.)

One comment

  1. Seems to me like they’ve been talking and making promises for more than two weeks now. When will they start the actual clean-up?? Time is of the essence if promises of “restoring Guimaras to its natural beauty” is achieved. The longer they wait the more damage the oil slick will cause to marine life. I hope this isn’t a lot of rhetoric on the part of politicians and Petron.

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