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An organic solution to toxic groundwater – how Carlow wants to clean up China


 Microgen founder Chinese native Dr Xeumei Germaine

Microgen founder Chinese native Dr Xeumei Germaine

Microgen founder Chinese native Dr Xeumei Germaine

SOIL or groundwater contaminated by petroleum or other toxic products can pose serious environmental and public risks and are not always easy to treat.

The environmentally friendly response is to use living organisms to degrade the contaminants. Many commercial bioremediation products use tiny organisms, known as microbes, applied in liquid form.

The problem is that microbes often have very low survivals rates when applied in liquid form and do not perform the bioremediation process effectively.

Now a company which started out in IT Carlow has come up with a unique treatment process to clean up toxic environmental pollutants from both soils and waste streams. It is applied in bead form and is highly efficient.

It combines technology, natural soil degrading bacteria and site- specific microbes, which adapt quickly to the soil and facilitate a slow-release system for the introduction of huge numbers of highly active pollutant-degrading cells.

The IT Carlow spin-out company was founded by Chinese native Dr Xeumei Germaine, an IT Carlow PhD graduate, who has worked as a research scientist with some major pharmaceutical companies in Ireland.

Through her research, Germaine identified a number of bacteria strains developed both by herself as a student and by others at IT Carlow that she believed would be beneficial in China.

Microgen decided to prioritise China because of the many environmental issues in the vast country.

China has a serious soil contamination problem from a number of sources. One pollutant is arsenic, which is released during the mining of copper, gold and other minerals.

China has 280,000 mines and accounts for 70pc of the world's arsenic. The Chinese government has acknowledged the scale of the problem and it is predicted that commercial remediation will become a major growth industry.

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