SiREM: Celebrating 20 Years of Leading Science Lasting Solutions


A fascinating group of subsurface microorganisms, called Dehalococcoides, were discovered more than 20 years ago.  These tiny, specialized, strictly anerobic microbes can dechlorinate the dry-cleaning solvent tetrachloroethene and the common industrial solvent trichloroethene to the benign product ethene.  This discovery led to the development of novel and highly successful commercial bioremediation approaches to clean up groundwater. Other dechlorinating microbes, including Dehalobacter and Dehalogenimonas, have also been discovered and each contributes in their own way to detoxification of a myriad of halogenated organics and to the global halogen cycle.

This story is a interesting account of parallel, iterative, synergistic and reinforcing developments in both the application of the bioremediation technology and the discovery of fundamental microbial physiological, genomics and biochemical characteristics of these unusual microbes.

The Presenters:

Elizabeth A. Edwards, Ph.D., P. Eng., O.C., University Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, and Cell and Systems Biology (Status only), University of Toronto. 

Dr. Elizabeth Edwards holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering from McGill University, Montreal, and a PhD degree (1993) in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University.  She is internationally known for her work on anaerobic bioremediation, the application of molecular biology and metagenomics to uncover novel microbial processes, and the transition of laboratory research into commercial practice to develop bioremediation and bioaugmentation strategies for groundwater pollutants. She is also the founding director of BioZone, a Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering Research at the University of Toronto and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Anaerobic Biotechnology.  In 2016, she was awarded the Canada Council of the Arts Killam Prize in recognition of her outstanding career achievements and was appointed an Officer in the Order of Canada (Canada’s highest civilian honour) by the Canadian Governor General in 2020.

Jeff Roberts, M.Sc.

Operations Manager, SiREM

 Jeff is the Operations Manager at SiREM with extensive technical experience in the laboratory assessment and field implementation of soil, sediment and groundwater remediation technologies at sites containing contaminants including chlorinated solvents, petroleum hydrocarbons, emerging contaminants and other recalcitrant compounds. Over the past 20 years he has conducted and managed hundreds of bench-scale batch and column treatability studies and has technical experience in the growth, scale up and field implementation of several anaerobic microbial cultures for bioremediation remedies. Jeff has several years of passive sampling experience and was a lead member in the development and commercialization of the SP3TM sampler.