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Bioremediation may have been discovered by the Romans, but microbiologists have studied the process only since the 1940s. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 in Prince William Sound, Alaska, was the genesis of global attention to this process. Since 1989, bioremediation has become a technology that is discussed, applied, and considered in many different circumstances. The history of bioremediation in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill can be divided into three development periods: the "Courtship" period until 1989, the "Honeymoon" period from 1989 until 1991, and the "Establishment" period since 1992. (3.3)

TIMELINE (600- 2005)

The following timeline showcases important dates and facts about the history of bioremediation. (3.2)(3.9) (3.10)

The process of bioremediation was invented by George M. Robinson in the 1960s. While serving as the Assistant County Petroleum Engineer for Santa Maria, California, he spent his spare time experimenting with dirty jars and the abandoned oil sumps of the Cat Canyon Oil Field. He then organized the first large-scale microbial cleanup of an oil spill in 1968. After, Robinson used bioremediation to complete the clean up of spills, sewage, leach fields and as well as odor and pest control. (3.4)

One person who is known for his amazing contribution to bioremediation is Ananda Chakrabarty. Dr. Ananda M. Chakrabarty, Amrita’s Senior Science Mentor, is the global domain expert relating to how bacterial proteins effectively combat cancers, parasites, and viruses in the human body. In the 1970s, Ananda and his colleagues at General Electric discovered a strain of bacteria that is able to degrade some components in crude oil. He obtained this strain by isolating a Pseudomonas from a soil filled with. (3.7) (3.8)

​Courtship Period (Pre-1989)​
The first period of bioremediation, called the "Courtship" Period, was basically a period dedicated to research. This was when bioremediation was little known outside the microbiology or hazardous waste community. A number of scientific papers and articles on this topic were published during the 1970s and 1980s. Several studies following major oil spills like the Amoco Cadiz spill measured oil degradation in the environment and confirmed laboratory research. (3.3)

Honeymoon Period (1989-1991)

Between 1989 and 1991, bioremediation experienced its "Honeymoon" period, receiving widespread attention and interest.
The Exxon Valdez incident was an oil spill in 1989, in Prince William Sound, Alaska, that revolutionized what the world knew about bioremediation. During the first weeks after the spill, responders flooded in with offers to help clean up the oil that had spread over 500 km of coastline in Prince William Sound. Bioremediation agents of all kinds were used; however, testing and evaluation had not yet been conducted. A committee of both Federal and State government authorities was then established to develop a protocol for evaluating these agents and to select the most promising for future testing and development. Prior to 1989, there were no documented uses of this technology on marine oil spills. During the 1990s, bioremediation was used (on a trial basis) at a total of four US spills: Prall’s Island in New Jersey, Seal Beach in California, and the Apex barges and Mega Borg spills in the Gulf of Mexico. The honeymoon period for bioremediation then started to end in late 1990 and 1991.

​Establishment Period (Since 1992)​
The period since 1992 may be called the "Establishment" period. During this time, bioremediation has achieved a certain level of acceptance, with more realistic expectations than earlier, but the level of interest and attention has decreased considerably. Everyone is not sure about how toxic the various fertilizer formulatations or microbial products are, and questions about their effectiveness. Most proposals to use bioremediation in open coastal environments are now accompanied by some type of monitoring program to determine whether the technique is accelerating oil degradation above background rates. In the case of a large spill, such as the Exxon Valdez, a pilot test can be conducted before the responsible authorities commit to the use of bioremediation on a large scale. However, the expense and effort required to establish a monitoring program may prevent the use of bioremediation at smaller spills. (3.3)

IMAGE CITATION (3.5) (3.1) (3.6) (3.7)

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