National Research Program | Reston Microbiology Lab

Contaminant Geochemistry

An overlay plate showing colonies of an acidophilic iron oxidizing bacteria isolated from the Gessen Creek near the former Ronneburg mining site in Eastern Germany.
An overlay plate showing colonies of an acidophilic iron oxidizing bacteria isolated from the Gessen Creek near the former Ronneburg mining site in Eastern Germany.

Environmental contamination from anthropogenic activities is an issue that affect the quality and availability of our Nation's resources. Microorganisms are uniquely poised to affect contaminants through natural attenuation or bioremediation, which is the ability of organisms to naturally reduce, eliminate, or contain hazardous particles. The Reston Microbiology Lab (RML) researches how microorganisms can attenuate or remediate contaminants from Cold War Era activities (radionuclides, heavy metals, and chlorinated solvents) and energy development. Our goal is to develop tools that can be used to improve water quality and environmental health.

The Ronneburg Uranium mine circa 1980 showing the large waste rock piles in the background.
The Ronneburg Uranium mine circa 1980 showing the large waste rock piles in the background.

Diagram of the iron cycle and its involvement in heavy metal immobilization.
Diagram of the iron cycle and its involvement in heavy metal immobilization.

Soil profile at the Gessenwiese test field, showing the dark manganese-rich barrier layer.
Soil profile at the Gessenwiese test field, showing the dark manganese-rich barrier layer.

Manganese oxidizing bacteria isolated from the geochemical barrier at the Ronneburg field site.
Manganese oxidizing bacteria isolated from the geochemical barrier at the Ronneburg field site.