Victorian scientist Dr Joanne Santini has isolated several species of bacteria that ‘consume’ toxic arsenic in drinking water. She is studying bacteria from gold mines in the Northern Territory and Victoria and believes they could be used in the bioremediation of contaminated drinking wells.
Drilling the wells can expose naturally occurring arsenic and turn it into two toxic forms, the easily treated arsenate and the more difficult arsenite. Dr. Santini’s study will investigate the possibility of using the bacteria to treat arsenite in drinking water.
At least half of the four million wells sunk across Bangladesh since 1970 in a UN-sponsored campaign are contaminated with arsenic.