Phytoremediation, anyone?

3494173858_7a3e0d2e6fEllen Weird writes:

Share Your Thoughts About Using Plants to Clean up Gas Works Park!

I am a graduate student at the University of Washington, currently working on my dissertation in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. I’m studying the social acceptability of phytoremediation, which refers to the use of plants to clean up contaminated areas.

I am planning a series of small community meetings to listen to what community members have to say about the possibility of phytoremediation at Gas Works Park. These meetings will take place in the form of focus groups, where everyone attending will have the opportunity to express thoughts, concerns, and general ideas about Gas Works Park and the possible addition of plants.

As a part of the community surrounding Gas Works Park, you have a unique and extremely valuable perspective to offer. I would love to hear what you think about phytoremediation at Gas Works Park and listen to any questions you may have. I will be holding focus groups on several dates in March and April. If you would like to participate or if you would just like more information about my research project, please feel free to call or email me at [email protected] or (206) 714-7142. Thanks a lot!

Phytoremediation, in case you’re curious, is “the direct use of green plants and their associated microorganisms to stabilize or reduce contamination in soils, sludges, sediments, surface water, or ground water”.

The soil and groundwater at Gas Works was contanimated through its years of use as a gasification plant from 1906 to 1956, and phytoremediation, as well as capping and removal, has been used to remove and contain the contaminants.

(Photo by Jonathan Colman)

  1. Lee Raaen said,

    Ms. Weir will be discussing this topic at the Wallingford Community Council meeting next Wednesday, March 5th, 7:00 PM at the Good Shepherd Center. Everyone is welcome.

    Wed, February 26 at 8:30 am
  2. mruby said,

    You might be interested to know that bioremediation of the soil at Gas Works was originally suggested before the park was opened in 2001. The designer and the Parks Department decided against that particular proposal because it would have delayed opening the park. Gas Works hill was covered with class B sewage sludge in order to separate the public from the worst of the soil that was excavated and piled into the hill. The tomato seeds in the sludge later sprouted and covered the hill with tomato plants. Some folks snuck in and harvested tomatoes despite a fence and a warning not to do so. I guess that was a bit of phytoremediation. The more significant remediation that was done at Gas Works was ground water clean up using air sparging. Folks may remember the blower towers that were there for several years.

    Wed, February 26 at 9:42 am
  3. mruby said,

    Oops, I meant to say the park was opened in 1971.

    Wed, February 26 at 9:42 am
  4. edwins said,

    “I’m studying the social acceptability of phytoremediation, which refers to the use of plants to clean up contaminated areas.”

    I find the “social acceptability” part of your area of study a bit strange. Studying the actual efficacy of the method would be more helpful but that would involve science. It is of course perfectly sociably acceptable. However, the vast majority of residents living in Wallingford have no knowledge of whether or not the method actually works although they will claim to. It certainly might work, and of course we hope it works but it is not an area of expertise for lay people to say with any worthwhile credentials that it actually does–the scientific method commonly thrown out the window here in favor of it just feels right, claimed intuition, astrology, karma, all manner of hokum. Sorry to be so blunt but to distill your “area of study” it can be simplified as such: Live in Seattle = liberal = phytoremediation is socially acceptable, but by all means keep studying whether or not it is socially acceptable even though everyone knows the answer to that odd question.

    Wed, February 26 at 4:55 pm
  5. Donn said,

    Of course, in the proposed community meetings, the only useful purpose is to gauge (and possibly influence) public sentiment. That doesn’t mean science is being thrown out the window, only that it isn’t the objective at hand. As for whether there is any interesting public sentiment, perhaps you’re right and there isn’t, but isn’t it embarrassing to assume so and then be proven wrong?

    If I make it to the meeting, I will be looking forward to learning some interesting things about the science, though, at some superficial level at least. My recollection of the idea behind the organic material in the hill is that it was supposed to stabilize the heavy metals through chelation. A reasonably plausible, and desperate, strategy, for a load of toxic waste that no one knew what to do with. Generations later, we’re still scratching our heads.

    Wed, February 26 at 8:03 pm
  6. Cameron said,

    edwins- I’d love to point out that your response is a perfect example of what Ellen may be looking to study. From your comment, I gather that, for you, it is socially acceptable to use phytoremediation, IF its use is supported by scientific evidence that it will work. -That’s great knowledge. To me, if I were advocating for its use, I’d then know that I have to focus on communicating the scientific evidence for its success in order for the public perception to be positive. No?

    Wed, February 26 at 10:41 pm
  7. Ellen Weir said,

    Thank you for the valuable feedback edwins. It would be great to have you join one of the focus groups to talk some more about your thoughts. I will talk quite a bit more about the scientific evidence in the focus groups, which will take place on March 11th, 17th, and 18th and on April 1st. The groups are open to anyone who would like to participate, space allowing. Let me know if you are able to join on one of those dates. It would truly be helpful to have your input!

    Thu, February 27 at 1:39 pm
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