ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. --A scientist at the Orange County Water District (OCWD) has invented a patented process that uses a foam, not unlike shaving cream, to help clean up industrial pollutants from the ground, air, and water. This process targets volatile organic contaminants that include gasoline, benzene and other compounds from automobile fuels, synthetic chemicals, and Industrial solvents. Such contaminants frequently cause major environmental cleanup problems.
OCWD senior microbiologist Don Phipps' invention has received a U.S. patent for this new treatment process that uses a "biologically activated foam" to rapidly destroy volatile contaminants.
In layman's terms, the foam forms a continuously renewable framework with a vast surface area to support and sustain microorganisms (bacteria) that rapidly "eat" or convert harmful organic contaminants into harmless carbon dioxide, water and natural biological residue. This process is relatively simple and the contaminants are destroyed on site, saving transportation costs.
The biologically activated foam is an invention that resulted from fundamental research at OCWD. Officials say applied research and development should lead to a cost-effective and environmentally "natural" means to deal with harmful pollution from automobile fuels and industrial solvents. Ron Linski, Director of the National Water Research Institute (NWRI), predicts, "Any number of industries could optimize this process for field application."
Phipps is 43 years old, holds a BS degree in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine and an MS degree in Life Sciences from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. A Costa Mesa resident, he has been with OCWD for nearly 13 years working on various research projects focused on groundwater production and clean up of contaminated water.
OCWD's Biotechnology Research Department, where Phipps works, applies the principles of both engineering and microbiology to solve complex groundwater contamination problems by biological means. Biological methods developed at OCWD are intended to supplement or even replace more expensive chemical and physical treatment technologies.
Orange County Water District is a special agency that was created by the California Legislature in 1933 to maintain and manage the huge groundwater basin under northern and central Orange County. OCWD's groundwater basin supplies 75 percent of the water needs to more than 2 million residents in Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington and Newport Beach, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, and Yorba Linda.
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