Through a partnership with state and federal government agencies, the military and industry, Dr. Elizabeth Nichols, environmental technology professor in NC State’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, and her team are using phytoremediation to clean up a contaminated site in Elizabeth City, N.C.
The Coast Guard site was planted with a mixture of fast-growing trees such as hybrid poplars and willows to prevent residual fuel waste from entering the Pasquotank River by ground water discharge. About 3,000 trees were planted on the five-acre site, which stored aircraft fuel for the Coast Guard base from 1942 until 1991. Fuels had been released into the soil and ground water over time. Efforts to recover easily extractable fuel using a free product recovery system – also called “oil skimmers” – had stalled so other remedial options were considered before choosing phytoremediation.
“We knew that tree growth would be difficult on portions of the site due to the levels of fuels in the soil and ground water, but, overall, we thought the trees could keep this contamination from moving toward the river by slowing ground water flow,” Nichols said. “Trees need water for photosynthesis so they absorb water from the ground; that process can slow the amount of ground water flowing toward the river.”July 2009: The same view in 2009. Some trees are now more than 30 feet tall. Bare spots indicate where bunkers were located and contamination is greatest.
In the process of absorbing water from the ground, trees can take up fuel contaminants. Some contaminants will be degraded by trees during this process while others will be released into the air by tree leaves and stems. “We wanted to demonstrate that the trees would first slow the movement of fuel toward the river,” Nichols said.
Trees can also increase the abundance and diversity of soil microorganisms around their roots. Some of these soil microorganisms will degrade the fuel still remaining in the ground. “This can be a slower process, but we also want to show that trees will remove the remaining fuel footprint over time,” Nichols continued.
Initially, 500 hybrid poplar and willow trees were planted in 2006. Another 2,500 trees were planted in 2007. “Our initial results are very encouraging, and amounts of fuel in the ground have decreased much faster than anticipated,” Nichols said, “but there is still much to learn about how trees can impact residual, weathered fuels over time. There are two areas on the site where trees do not do well, but, overall, tree growth and survival are impressive.” The Coast Guard has recognized the value of phytoremediation from this study, and has established two additional phytoremediation systems at different locations on base.
The project received a $240,584 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s (NCDENR) Division of Water Quality 319 program, and an additional $15,000 grant from British Petroleum North America to establish the demonstration site. Nichols worked with Brad Atkinson (NCDENR), Dr. James Landmeyer (U.S. Geological Survey), J.P. Messier (U.S. Coast Guard), and Rachel Cook, a graduate student at NC State, to design and implement the phyto-demonstration site. NC State was recently awarded an additional EPA/NCDENR 319 grant to continue monitoring the site for tree growth and fuel reduction, tree toxicity to fuels, changes to ground water levels and flow, and how fuel contamination is actually removed by trees.
Caroline M. Barnhill | EurekAlert!
100 % Organic Farming in Bhutan – a Realistic Target?
15.06.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
What the size distribution of organisms tells us about the energetic efficiency of a lake
05.06.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...
Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.
Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...
The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.
Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...
13.06.2018 | Event News
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
19.06.2018 | Life Sciences
19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy