Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Flushed resource restores ecosystem

10.12.2015

'Dream treatment' solves 2 problems at once

Every city has abandoned industrial sites. Encouraging life to return to these barren areas is a challenge. It requires a healthy topsoil for plants and animals to flourish. Cities, with their heavily compacted and often contaminated soils, often struggle to restore blighted spaces. Quality soil is necessary--but not abundant in cities. Enter biosolids.


Aaron Mali (front) and Oulu Coquie (back) till biosolids into test plots, one of the first steps in transforming a blighted area into a functioning ecosystem.

Photo provided by Nick Basta.

The Lake Calumet Cluster Site (LCCS) was the home of five U.S steel plants on the southeast side of Chicago. Now it's an 87-acre wasteland of glassy slag--a rocky byproduct of steel manufacturing.

"It's a mess," says Nick Basta, "Sixty percent of the land is bare rock."

The site used to be a wetland, but years of infill, dumping, and excavation has rendered the area inhospitable to plants and animals. It is on the EPA's national priority list. Over the last few years, the city has tried to restore the area. The hope is that it will become a stop for migratory birds along Lake Michigan's shoreline.

Restoration efforts of this scale are difficult. The original plan put forth by the restoration team was a two-inch layer of compost on the site. To Basta, this wasn't the answer.

"I love compost, but it's just not good enough," he said. A good soil provides the right combination of depth, nutrients, and texture to support bacteria, fungus, insects, and worms. Compost lacks essential plant nutrients, and is easily dispersed by rain and wind. A soil teeming with microscopic life is ideal for restoring plant and animal communities.

Basta and his team from the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University, along with Lakhwinder Hundal and Kuldip Kumar from the Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), decided to manufacture their own soil with help from the nearby wastewater treatment plant.

Chicago's MWRD makes creative use of the enormous amount of waste Chicago generates. One example is biosolids--a rebirthing of sewage into a clean, pathogen-free, nutrient-dense growing material. Two years of physical, chemical, and biological treatment turns what was once sludge into a rich growing medium. These biosolids have a wealth of organic matter and are full of plant nutrients. It's an ideal base for diversity. In July 2015, Illinois legislation declared biosolids an approved resource for healthy lawns and growing crops.

Basta and his team collaborated with MWRD to create a soil blend using biosolids. "We called it the dream treatment," said Basta. They tilled it into test plots just outside the LCCS site. Researchers created a second plot with compost--a thick, organic-rich material degraded from hardwood trees. The team scattered native plant seeds on both plots.

The biosolids plots proved to be the best home for healthy bacteria, fungus and plants--important indicators for a thriving ecosystem. Worms were happy in both the compost and biosolids plots.

"The next step is blending the biosolids and the compost," said Basta.

The city of Chicago already uses biosolids for golf courses and baseball diamonds. Basta hopes that biosolids can restore the degraded surface area of LCCS, and the poor quality soils typical in Chicago's dense urban areas.

"You have to bring in the soil," said Basta "Why not connect the dots and bring in what's available locally?"

Read more about the "dream treatment" in a special section of the Journal of Environmental Quality, "Soil in the City."

Susan Fisk | EurekAlert!

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Cascading use is also beneficial for wood
11.12.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>