Bioremediation Using Beneficial Microorganisms


Bioremediation can restore both lake and soil ecosystems

Bioremediation uses beneficial microorganisms to restore environments that have become putrefactive as a result of human activity or environmental catastrophe. Beneficial microorganisms work by out-competing bad bacteria and pathogens and digesting contaminants.

When an ecosystem is healthy bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms are constantly at work, breaking down organic matter and maintaining balance. For decades, beneficial microorganisms have been used around the world to treat wastewater and remediate damaged soils.

These are medium- and longer-term solutions that we could initiate with small grants and then take to scale once more partners are on board. Once set up, the infrastructure and processes needed to sustain bioremediation efforts are simple and inexpensive to manage.

Beneficial microorganisms

Extending beneficial microorganisms, Santiago Atitlán

When beneficial microorganisms are reintroduced to damaged water or soil in sufficient quantities they are capable of restoring and rebuilding ecosystems. Studies from around the world show how beneficial microorganisms reduce coliform levels in remediated water and increase plant yields and growth rates from remediated soil.

The  beneficial microorganisms used for bioremediation consist of lactic acid bacteria (the same strains found in yogurt), yeasts (the same strains used to make bread and beer), and photosynthetic bacteria (the same strains that are in all healthy soil). These are the same beneficial bacteria that inhabit all healthy ecosystems - lakes, soils, or our digestive tracts.

Beneficial microorganisms can be grown in They are grown in a special system and used to repopulate damaged ecosystems. Production is a two-step process called ‘extension’. First, the beneficial microorganisms are combined with molasses and water. As this solution is fermented, the beneficial microorganisms replicate or ‘extend’.

Wastewater treatment using beneficial microorganisms


Beneficial microorganisms are used all over the world to speed up wastewater treatment and improve both effectiveness and cost-efficiency. If applied at the wastewater treatment plants in the Atitlán basin, this simple technology could restore a healthy balance to the ecosystem while the longer-term solutions are implemented.

Treating sewage with beneficial microorganisms would  greatly improve the quality of the water flowing out of them and into Lake Atitlan.  It would reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended solids, and drastically reduce sludge and coliforms such as e-coli.

Organic farming using beneficial microorganisms


Among local farmers there is a growing movement to return to natural methods of farming. Many farmers see how their soil has been degraded by fertilizers and other chemical products. The potential to increase income by going organic is also a motivating factor. Organic coffee currently sells for about 35% more then conventional coffee on world markets, and farm-to-cup fair trade coffee sells for about 50% more.

Beneficial microorganisms are used worldwide for organic farming and for remediation of damaged soils. Repopulating the soil with beneficial microorganisms is the quickest and most effective way to restore the health of soil that has been damaged by chemical agriculture. This natural technology ensures that farmers have an effective alternative to toxic chemical products, thereby making it easier for them to convert to sustainable organic practices.

Recommended viewing

Water and EM1 - TeraGanix

This 15 minute video tells you all you need to know about the power of beneficial microorganisms, (Effective Microorganisms, or EM®). See how they are used around the world for farming, wastewater treatment, and composting.

Seto Inland Sea Clean Up with EM® (Part 1/7) - TeraGanix

This series of short videos shows how Effective Microorganisms were used to clean up the Seto Inland Sea near Hiroshima in Japan.

Recommended reading

Beneficial microorganisms were used to treat sewage, which was then used to grow vegetables. The report documents amazing differences in both plant growth and the nutrient content in wastewater.

Beneficial microorganisms were used to 'extend the life' of school pit latrines (reduce the frequency with which they have to be emptied). This UNICEF report documents their effectiveness in reducing both smell and sludge volume in pit latrines at 40 schools.