The use of living organisms for the recovery/ cleaning up of a contaminated medium (soil, sediment, air, water). The process of bioremediation might involve introduction of new organisms to a site, or adjustment of environmental conditions to enhance degradation rates of indigenous fauna.
Bioremediation can be applied to recover brownfields for development and for preparing contaminated industrial effluents prior to discharge into waterways. Bioremediation technologies are also applied to contaminated wastewater, ground or surface waters, soils, sediments and air where there has been either accidental or intentional release of pollutants or chemicals that pose a risk to human, animal or ecosystem health.
Different approaches to bioremediation take advantage of the metabolic processes of different organisms for degradation, or sequestering and concentration, of different contaminants. For example, soil bioremediation might be performed under either aerobic or anaerobic conditions, and involve optimization of the metabolic pathways of bacteria or fungi for degradation of hydrocarbons, aromatic compounds or chlorinated pesticides. Phytoremediation is bioremediation using plants and is often proposed for bioaccumulation of metals, although there are many other different types of phytoremediation.
Bioremediation using genetically engineered microorganisms (GEMs, or GMOs), carrying recombinant proteins, is still relatively uncommon due to regulatory constraints related to their release and control. Other methods of enzyme optimization that do not include gene cloning technqiues, might be applied to indigenous microorganisms in order to enhance their pre-existing traits.