Protocols for Harvesting a Microbial Community Directly as a Biofilm for the Remediation of Oil Sands Process Water

  • Joe Lemire
  • Marc Demeter
  • Raymond J. TurnerEmail author
Part of the Springer Protocols Handbooks book series (SPH)


The prevalence of inorganic pollutants co-contaminating sites with multiple organic pollutants complicates bioremediation efforts. For this reason, new methods are needed for bioremediation of co-contaminated sites. One strategy being explored is the use of microbial community biofilms. Biofilms offer advantages in bioremediation that their planktonic counterparts don’t. These advantages include: (1) the biofilm matrix provides protection from the rapid diffusion and penetration of toxins; (2) biofilms exist as a community with diverse metabolic potentials, increasing their ability to degrade a variety of xenobiotics; and (3) biofilm formation is an effective way to retain biomass in a bioreactor.

Here, we describe a robust method for harvesting and applying environmentally derived mixed-species biofilms for the remediation of contaminants – namely, naphthenic acids – from Oil sands process water (OSPW). OSPW is an alkaline mixture of clay, sand, and residual hydrocarbons. In addition, OSPW is rife with acutely and chronically toxic levels of heavy metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and naphthenic acids.

Currently, we have established facile methods for harvesting a microbial mixed-species biofilm in a high-throughput device – the Calgary Biofilm Device (CBD) – and on various wastewater treatment support materials using a modified CBD. We have observed that the established biofilm can then be used to inoculate an ex situ bioreactor. To date, we have established that our biofilm-inoculated bioreactor maintains the capacity to degrade a mixture of commercially available naphthenic acids at concentrations exceeding those found in OSPW over a 30-day period.

Altogether, this chapter will provide a template for an easy and effective example of how biofilms can be used to remediate organic pollutants in co-contaminated sites.


Biofilms Bioreactor Bioremediation Naphthenic acids Oil sands process water 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joe Lemire
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marc Demeter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Raymond J. Turner
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Biofilm Research Group, University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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