For Cornell Faculty

Curriculum Resources

CSIP Publications

In the News

Education Standards

Related Links


Bioremediation of Nitrate in Groundwater
Deborah Sills
2003-2004 Fellow

Using this module, students in high school environmental science or chemistry classes design and conduct experiments concerning bioremediation of groundwater polluted with nitrate. The experiments test whether soil bacteria can remove nitrate from polluted water. Through these experiments, students learn about nutritional and environmental requirements of soil microbes. Before conducting their laboratory experiments, students read newspaper articles and conduct Internet research to learn about local pollution problems that could or are being addressed through bioremediation.

This module was designed in response to a request by teachers at Whitney Point High School to conduct a hands-on activity that would address bioremediation of chlorinated solvents, which had been found in the town's groundwater and are common groundwater contaminants throughout the US. Because chlorinated solvents pose risks to human health, it was not possible for high school students to study bacteria that degrade these compounds. This experiment was designed as a safe alternative, to show students a biological process that mimics biodegradation of chlorinated solvents but instead uses nitrate, a common groundwater contaminant that is not dangerous for students to handle and is easy to monitor with chemical test kits. This curriculum was piloted in 2004 in Whitney Point High School and Newark Valley High School, NY.

Downloadable WORD files:

Teacher's Guide

Student Version



Copyright 2006 CSIP, Cornell University