Authors: Marques, LLR; Golby, S; Stenroos, P; McClure, T; Turner, RJ; Ceri, H


Cite As:
Marques, LLR, Golby, S, Stenroos, P, McClure, T, Turner, RJ & Ceri, H 2011, 'Usage of laboratory bench scale testing in environmental remediation strategies', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & A Beersing (eds), Mine Closure 2011: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 433-442,

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

The oil sands tailings ponds of the Athabasca region, in Northern Alberta, are complex slurries of residual bitumen, oil organics, naphtha diluent, water, sand, clay and heavy metals. These ponds present a unique, yet challenging environment to work with. Remediation of organic contaminant can occur via abiotic and biotic mechanisms. Acceleration of these processes can be achieved through amendments, such as addition of nutrients, surfactants and oxygen, to the contaminated environment which can stimulate microbial growth and metabolism as well as favourable abiotic reactions. Bioremediation efficacy varies greatly from site to site due to changing environmental conditions, soil characteristics, contaminant composition and complexity and indigenous microbial communities. Due to this complexity, assessment of the feasibility of implementing a biologically-based remediation solution and the establishment of optimal treatment conditions for specific sites is critical to ensure efficacy of the bioremediation process, especially in areas exposed to challenging conditions such as mine and oil sands tailings. The bioremediation potential of a site can be evaluated using laboratory or bench scale biotreatability testing, where field conditions are mimicked and the optimal conditions for contaminant degradation are identified. Advanced approaches to bioremediation may also involve the use of mixed species biofilms (microbial consortia). Biodegradation of a compound is often dependent on a microbial consortium, a mixture of species often including bacteria, fungi and archaea (extremophiles), as individual organisms can metabolise only a limited range of substrates. Bioremediation of tailings could be optimised through better understanding and utilisation of diverse microbial groups that are indigenous to mining environments, and through the use of biofilms. A few studies are presented to illustrate: i) the value of bench scale biotreatability testing; ii) the application of non-conventional microbial and molecular techniques; and iii) biofilm methodology; to gather a better understanding and to test the efficacy of bioremediation programmes prior to implementation in the field.

Atlas, R.M. (1995) Bioremediation of petroleum pollutants, International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation, Vol. 35, pp. 317–327.
Byrne-Bailey, K.G., Weber, K.A., Chair, A.H., Bose, S., Knox, T., Spanbauer, T.L., Chertkov, O. and Coates, J.D. (2010) Completed Genome Sequence of the Anaerobic Iron-Oxidizing Bacterium Acidovorax ebreus Strain TPSY, Journal of Bacteriology, Vol. 192, pp. 1475–1476.
Ceri, H., Olson, M., Morck, D., Storey, D., Read, R., Buret, A. and Olson, B. (2001) The MBEC assay system: Multiple equivalent biofilms for antibiotic and biocide susceptibility testing, Methods in Enzymology, Vol. 337,
pp. 377–385.
Ceri, H., Olson, M.E., Stremick, C., Read, R.R., Morck, D. and Buret, A. (1999) The Calgary Biofilm Device: New technology for rapid determination of antibiotic susceptibilities of bacterial biofilms, Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Vol. 37, pp. 1771–1776.
Choudhary, S. and Sar, P. (2011) Uranium biomineralization by a metal resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain isolated from contaminated mine waste, Journal of Hazardous Materials, Vol. 186, pp. 336–343.
Costerton, J.W., Cheng, K.J., Geesey, G.G., Ladd, T.I., Nickel, J.C., Dasgupta, M. and Marrie, T.J. (1987) Bacterial biofilms in nature and disease, Annual Review of Microbiology, Vol. 41, pp. 435–464.
Del Rio, L.F., Hadwin, A.K.M., Pinto, L.J., MacKinnon, M.D. and Moore, M.M. (2006) Degradation of naphthenic acids by sediment micro-organisms, Journal of Applied Microbiology, Vol. 101, pp. 1049–1061.
Delong, E.F. and Pace, N.R. (2001) Environmental Diversity of Bacteria and Archaea, Systematic Biology, Vol. 50, pp. 470–478.
Gadd, G.M. (2010) Metals, minerals and microbes: geomicrobiology and bioremediation, Microbiology, Vol. 156, pp. 609–643.
Hadwin, A.K.M., Del Rio, L.F., Pinto, L.J., Morgan Painter, M., Routledge, R. and Moore, M.M. (2006) Microbial communities in wetlands of the Athabasca oil sands: genetic and metabolic characterization, FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Vol 55, pp. 68–78.
Hall-Stoodley, L., Costerton, J.W. and Stoodley, P. (2004) Bacterial biofilms: From the natural environment to infectious diseases, Nature Reviews Microbiology, Vol. 2, pp. 95–108.
Harrison, J.J., Stremick, C.A., Turner, R.J., Allan, N.D., Olson, M.E. and Ceri, H. (2010) Microtiter susceptibility testing of microbes growing on peg lids: a miniaturized biofilm model for high-throughput screening, Nature Protocols, Vol. 5, pp. 1236–1254.
Harrison, J.J., Turner, R.J. and Ceri, H. (2005b) High-throughput metal susceptibility testing of microbial biofilms, BMC Microbiology, Vol. 5, 53 p., .
Harrison, J.J., Turner, R.J., Marques, L.L.R. and Ceri, H. (2005a) Biofilms: A new understanding of these microbial communities is driving a revolution that may transform the science of microbiology, American Scientist, Vol. 93, pp. 508–515.
Head, I.M., Saunders, J.R. and Pickup, R.W. (1998) Microbial Evolution, Diversity, and Ecology: A Decade of Ribosomal RNA Analysis of Uncultivated Microorganisms, Microbial Ecology, Vol. 35, pp. 1–31.
Heitzer, A. and Sayler, G.S. (1993) Monitoring the Efficacy of Bioremediation, Trends in Biotechnology, Vol. 11, pp. 334–343.
Kellermann, C. and Griebler, C. (2009) Thiobacillus thiophilus sp nov., a chemolithoautotrophic, thiosulfate-oxidizing bacterium isolated from contaminated aquifer sediments, International Journal of Systematics and Evolutionary Microbiology, Vol. 59, pp. 583–588.
Kirk, J.L., Beaudette, L.A., Hart, M., Moutoglis, P., Klironomos, J.N., Lee, H. and Trevors, J.T. (2004) Methods of studying soil microbial diversity, Journal of Microbiological Methods, Vol. 58, pp. 169–188.
Macur, R.E, Wheeler, J.T., McDermott, T.R. and Inskeep, W. (2001) Microbial Populations Associated with the Reduction and Enhanced Mobilization of Arsenic in Mine Tailings, Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 35, pp. 3676–3682.
Mizukami, S., Takeda, K., Akada, S. and Fujita, T. (2006) Isolation and characteristics of Methanosaeta in paddy field soils, Bioscience Biotechnology and Biochemistry, Vol. 70, pp. 828–835.
Moretti, L. (2005) In situ Bioremediation of DNAPL Sources Zones, US EPA, Technology Innovation and Field Services Division, Washington, DC.
Mullis, K.B. and Faloona, F.A. (1987) Specific synthesis of DNA in vitro via a polymerase-catalyzed ain reaction, Methods Enzymology, Vol. 155, pp. 335–350.
Muyzer, G., De Waal, E.C. and Uitierlinden, A.G. (1993) Profiling of Complex Microbial Populations by Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis Analysis of Polymerase Chain Reaction-Amplified Genes Coding for 16S rRNA, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 59, pp. 695–700.
Nicolella, C., van Loosdrecht, M.C.M. and Heijnen, J.J. (2000) Wastewater treatment with particulate biofilm reactors, Journal of Biotechnology, Vol. 80, pp. 1–33.
Pace, N.R. (1997) A molecular view of microbial diversity and the biosphere, Science, Vol. 276, pp. 734–740.
Ramos-Padrón, E., Bordenave, S., Lin, S., Bhaskar, I.M., Dong, X., Sensen, C.W., Fournier, J., Voordouw, G. and Gieg, L.M. (2011) Carbon and sulfur cycling by microbial communities in a gypsum-treated oil sands tailings pond, Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 45, pp. 439–446.
Schachter, B. (2003) Slimy business—the biotechnology of biofilms, Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 21, pp. 361–365.
Siddique, T., Fedorak, P.M. and Foght, J.M. (2006) Biodegradation of short-chain n-alkanes in oil sands tailings under methanogenic conditions, Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 40, pp. 5459–5464.
Singh, R., Paul, D. and Jain, R.K. (2006) Biofilms: implications in bioremediation, Trends in Microbiology, Vol. 14, pp. 389–397.
Singleton, D.R., Ramirez, L.G. and Aitken, M.D. (2009) Characterization of a Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Degradation Gene Cluster in a Phenanthrene-Degrading Acidovorax Strain, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 75, pp. 2613–2620.
Stenuit, B., Eyers, L., Schuler, L., Agathos, S.N. and George, I. (2008) Emerging high-throughput approaches to analyze bioremediation of sites contaminated with hazardous and/or recalcitrant wastes, Biotechnology Advances, Vol. 26, pp. 561–575.
Vidali, M. (2001) Bioremediation, An overview, Pure and Applied Chemistry, Vol. 73, pp. 1163–1172.

© Copyright 2024, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
View copyright/legal information
Please direct any queries or error reports to