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  • Writer's pictureERS Remediation

qPCR - Cutting Edge Technology for Contaminated Land Remediation

Updated: May 12, 2023

This relatively new molecular biology technology has now made its way to the field of contaminated land remediation and ERS's scientists have already had the opportunity to apply it to some of our projects.

What is qPCR?

qPCR is based on Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), a widely used molecular biology technique used to copy DNA. qPCR is a bit different because as well as copying the DNA, the technique “quantifies” the amount of DNA of interest in the original sample – and therefore (in our case) the number of microbes (bacteria, fungi etc.) present.

How can you use qPCR for contaminated land remediation?

We use qPCR in various ways, such as seeing whether contaminant degraders are present and how abundant they are in contaminated environments. It can also be used to monitor active bioremediation, e.g. where microbes have been introduced and/or stimulated with nutrients. The DNA which codes for the enzymes with do this are key targets for qPCR, allowing us to use the technique to look at complex biodegradation pathways and identify "breaks" in the pathways which can help explain chemical results.

What kind of contaminants can it be used for?

Microbes are remarkable and can degrade anything from hydrocarbons to chlorinated solvents. They can even help remediate toxic metals by turning them into harmless/ insoluble forms.

So why should I consider qPCR for my site?

Well for starters, it allows for better assessment of low cost remediation options, such as bioremediation, which could save a lot of money. It also provides scientific evidence of remediation progress, which gives greater assurance for regulator stakeholders.

Although this is a cutting edge application for the Remediation Industry, ERS’s scientists have considerable experience of using it, both in real-life remediation projects and through university collaborations to advance our collective knowledge in this new field.

If you are interested in how it might be applied to your site, get in touch with our Technical Manager, Dr Tom Aspray, on 0141 772 2789 or

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