Viridian Note 00271: Kuwaiti Cleanup

Bruce Sterling []
From: Bruce Sterling []
Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2001 3:36 PM
Subject: Viridian Note 00271: Kuwaiti Clean-Up

Key concepts:  oil bioremediation, Kuwait, Gulf War

Attention Conservation Notice:  Involves a
war that ended ten years ago. Contains no remarks
about skyscrapers and/or civilian aircraft.


Association for Environmental Health and Sciences

Their "First International Conference on Petroleum
Contaminated Soils, Sediments and Water."

Paul Kostecki's home page

Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research

A photo tour of the natural beauties of the Kuwaiti 
desert, including the arfaj, National Flower of Kuwait.  
Take particular note of the "abandoned solar experiment."

Source:  Science magazine, 24 August 02001,
vol 293, page 1410

"The Gulf War's Aftermath

"Kuwait Unveils Plan to Treat Festering Desert Wound

by Ben Shouse

"London == Ten years after the Gulf War ended, Kuwait's
deserts are still drenched in crude oil, most of it 
spilled as Iraqi invaders beat a hasty retreat.  Now the 
country is about to embark on a belated $1 billion effort 
to tackle the ecological calamity in one of the biggest 
environmental remediation efforts ever attempted.

    "'It's a living laboratory of a type mankind has never 
seen before,' says Paul Kostecki of the University of 
Massachusetts, Amherst.

    "Despite its considerable wealth, Kuwait has made 
little headway in cleaning up its oil-contaminated 
deserts.  An estimated 250 million gallons of oil == more 
than 20 times the amount spilled by the *Exxon Valdez* oil 
tanker off Alaska in 1989 == despoiled one-third of the 
land.  Kuwaiti scientist claim that wildlife took a heavy 
hit, particularly in the National Park of Kuwait, where 
the national flower, the arfaj (Rhanterium epapposum), was 
wiped out; it's now being replanted. (...)

     "A delay in sopping up the crude was inevitable: 
Kuwait spent the first 6 months just putting out oil fires 
set by retreating Iraqi forces. (((Massive calamity is a 
way of life, ladies and gentlemen.))) (...)

    "In June (((02001))), the United Nations Compensation 
Committee awarded Kuwait $108.9 million in reparations 
from UN-controlled Iraqi oil sales to be spent on 
addressing the environmental fallout from  the Gulf War. 
(...)  First up is a 5-year project to catalog the 
environmental ills, followed by a remediation estimated to 
cost more than $1 billion.  (...)

    "Nader Al-Awadi's team from KISR  (((Kuwait Institute 
for Scientific Research))) working with Japan's Petroleum 
Energy Center, showed how to remove 94 percent of 
hydrocarbons from soil underneath lakes of oil now 
covering 49 square kilometers of Kuwait.  It is not a 
delicate process: the soil is excavated and washed with 
kerosene, piled up, and then pumped with air and water to 
nourish oil-eating microbes.  (((Go, go decay microbes!  
Viridians are with you all the way!)))

    "If this process were used to treat all 70 million 
cubic meters of soil affected by oil lakes, it would  cost 
$1.3 billion, says Al-Awadi.  And that's leaving out 
contaminants such as soot and hardened tar mats, which 
cover a wider area but are deemed less serious ecological 

    "One novel project stems from the high concentration 
of petroleum  in some of the spills.  Researchers have 
proposed using the oily sand  to pave roughly 5,000 
kilometers worth of roads.  In other words, when life 
gives you asphalt, make a highway.  (((You'd think they'd
be pretty tired of fossil fuels at this point; but maybe 
they can ride out in big convoys to contemplate the "soot 
and hardened tar mats.")))

    "Kuwait's bioremediation windfall 'could provide an 
incredible amount of research,' says Kostecki, executive 
director of the U.S.-based Association for Environmental 
Health and Sciences, which sponsored the London 
conference.  And although Kuwait has skimped so far, 
outside experts say the country's leadership has 
experienced a change of heart.  'They don't really care 
about the cost,' insists Farouk El-Baz, director of the 
Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University.  'If they 
can find a way, they will clean it up.'"  (((That's the 
spirit, Kuwaitis!  Someday all fossil fuels will be 
treated that way == as a dirty nuisance.)))

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