Developing Bioremediation Technologies for Commercial Application: An Insider’s View
For several decades, there has been a conflict between those who release pollutants into the environment and/or own polluted sites and those who wish those releases to be curtailed and want contaminated sites to be remediated. The polluters have generally been businesses that are most interested in controlling costs and maximizing profits or government agencies who often had other priorities of national interest (e.g., war efforts). Those opposed to pollution have sought to reduce the exposure risks of toxic chemicals and to ensure the sustainability of the natural environment. Some of these conflicts came to a peak in the 1970s in the United States, and they ultimately led to the creation of strong environmental laws that forced polluters to control emissions and to reduce the risk associated with contaminants on their sites. As a result of these new rules, a profit-driven environmental remediation and pollution control industry also emerged. The goal of this industry is primarily to help the polluters meet their regulatory requirements by developing and applying remedial technologies, helping the companies or agencies evaluate and implement technologies as they emerge, and/or ensuring regulatory compliance. During my 25-year career in this environmental remediation industry, I observed how technologies were selected for application at given sites, and I learned about the many subtle factors and conflicting interests that affected such decisions. I also observed the role that scientists can play in this high-stakes game that pits the profit motives of two parties and the legal requirements of a third party against one another to, hopefully, meet the needs of all parties. Herein I describe some of the lessons I learned with the hope of helping current and future scientists and entrepreneurs to develop and market successful technologies to improve waste treatment and pollution remediation.
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