Envirogen Inc. has been awarded a $65,000 Phase I smallbusiness innovative research (SBIR) grant by the NationalScience Foundation to develop technology capable ofbiodegrading certain ozone-depleting chemicals. TheLawrenceville, N.J., company has been developing abioremediation process that breaks down certainhydrohalocarbons and methyl bromide, rendering themharmless to the Earth's ozone layer.

The company plans to identify and characterize superior,naturally occurring aerobic microorganisms capable ofdegrading hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs),hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and methyl bromide. It will thenattempt to design a system of bioreactions or on-site methodsthat will biodegrade the substances.

HCFCs and HFCs are hydrohalocarbons that are scheduled toreplace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) under the Clean Air Act.While not as damaging to the ozone as CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs arealso ozone-depleting substances that may eventually be phasedout. According to Envirogen, there are currently no suitablereplacements for the compounds, which are used asrefrigerants and propellants.

Methyl bromide is a widely used pesticide, applied as a soilfumigant, that may also be phased out because of its ozone-depleting properties, Envirogen said. The company(NASDAQ:ENVG) said it has received several previous SBIRgrants for work on various cost-effective technologies to handlehazardous waste. The federal government established an SBIRprogram in this area, the company said, in hopes of achievinglow-cost alternatives to expensive environmental cleanupsassociated with the Departments of Defense and Energy. -- KarlThiel

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