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Phytoremediation project installed


ERIE IGERT researchers have designed and implemented a phytoremediation project in Machias, NY, in collaboration with Motorola, the project sponsor, and consultants Ecolotree and KPRG. The project uses 349 deeply-rooted hybrid poplar trees to restrict the migration of groundwater contaminated with low levels of chlorinated solvents and protect nearby surface waters that discharge to the Great Lakes. After a year of baseline monitoring, the project was implemented in November 2011. The implemented design features a four-row L-shaped barrier perpendicular to groundwater flow. In each row, hybrid poplars and willows were planted in an alternating pattern. By planting willows in between the poplars, the shallower root systems of the willows will intercept the majority of surface water forcing poplars to draw water from the contaminated groundwater.

In addition to removing water, the phytoremediation system will inhibit the migration of chlorinated organic compounds by rhizodegradation (mineralized by microorganism in the root zone), phytodegradation (mineralized in the tree), storage in poplar tissues (e.g., leaves) and evapotranspiration. Through a long-term monitoring and research plan, designed by ERIE IGERT researchers, the dominant TCE transport mechanisms at the site will be identified. Monitoring will also confirm that regulatory requirements for the site are achieved. Over the next several years, the site will provide a platform for multidisciplinary doctoral research projects that will advance the science and practice of phytoremediation by examining its ecologic, hydrologic, economic, and social aspects.

Address Goals

Phytoremediation is an attractive approach to groundwater restoration that, for sites where it is applicable, can greatly reduce the energy consumption and carbon footprint associated with conventional remediation technologies. The current IGERT research will advance the refinement and deployment of the technology by contributing to the fundamental understanding of the complex mechanisms responsible for contaminant transformation.