Toxins in oil could slow down Alibaug beach clean-up, says TERI scientist | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Toxins in oil could slow down Alibaug beach clean-up, says TERI scientist

A day after the Awas beach in Alibaug was swept off the oil-stained sand following the spill, scientists are concerned that the content of pesticides and other toxins mixed with the oil could slow down the process of neutralising the beaches.

mumbai Updated: Aug 22, 2010 01:15 IST
Apeksha Vora

A day after the Awas beach in Alibaug was swept off the oil-stained sand following the spill, scientists are concerned that the content of pesticides and other toxins mixed with the oil could slow down the process of neutralising the beaches.

Scientists have used the oil-zapper technology developed by Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) that will lead to the bio-remediation of the tarballs caused by the spill.

Essentially, oil eating bacteria and nutrients are sprinkled into a three-ft bioremediation pit consisting of oil-stained sand, sludge, plastic and tar balls from the shore. The bacteria then help degenerate the oil.

“But the toxins released into the sea could cause the death of certain microbes that could slow down or hamper the process,” said Banwari Lal, director of the environmental and industrial biotechnology department at TERI, who developed the technology.

Lal is in Mumbai to oversee the bioremediation process.

The institute will collect samples of the soil and conduct toxicity tests to understand how toxins are likely to impact the microbes.

“If the number of microbes reduces, we will add more microbes at intervals,” said Lal adding that the number of microbes per tonne of oil- contaminated soil must be as high as 50,000 for the process to run effectively.

Though mangroves will not be treated, officials from TERI said the oil-zapper technology could be used to clean up rocky beaches.

“We can take cotton swabs to wipe off oil from the surface of rocks and put them in the pit,” said Lal. “Rocks that are close to the water may get further oil deposits but those far away can be treated successfully.”

The Maharasthra Pollution Control Board and TERI have recognised nine locations where the bioremediation processes is possible, which include Navy Nagar, Dharapuri, Alibaug, Elephanta caves among others.

“The oil zapper technology has also been modified to suit salty waters. However, the oil has spread substantially because of the rains and delay in action. It would be difficult to get much success in that area,” said Lal.

Following the spill, oil was found accumulated in mangroves at Navi Mumbai Uran and Alibaug.

Tar balls were also found on-shore in Sasvane, Kihim, Revas and Mandava along the Raigad coastline, Uran, Vashi and in pockets of Colaba.