Treatment of hydrocarbon wastes by activation of indigenous microbes is a simple and cost effective solution for petroleum contaminated soil and bodies of water. The population of soil bacteria (cells/gram) can be determined on site with a properly equipped microscope. The microbial activity (production of gas from a glucose-based nutrient) can also be measured in the field using a simple arrangement of three bottles in series. Examination of salt tolerance showed that most population of soil bacteria are active up to 6% salt.
A petroleum waste pond containing heavy hydrocarbons on the surface, layered on the bottom and soaked into the soil around the edges of the pond was reduced to less than 20 ppm Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (a reduction of over 95%) in about six weeks. The treatment was the inexpensive activation of microbes by addition of a glucose-based nutrient and aeration of the fluid using floating aerators. Soil is equally decontaminated by adding the nutrient and aerating the soil periodically by turning or harrowing with a small tractor. Contamination of technically sterile soil is treated by mixing with soil containing a satisfactory population of bacteria.