Bioremediation Project: Local labratory assists local community land use transition

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Source: Curtis & Tompkins Laboratories

Curtis and Tompkins Laboratory supports phytoremediation application

Berkeley, CA -- C&T is participating in a project to evaluate the application of phytoremediation (plant based remediation) approach to clean up a long abandoned contaminated railway right of way inBerkeley.

This project will be the first real world test of this approach and involves the planting of more than 2, 000 Chinese brake ferns (Pteris vittata) that have been shown to suck Arsenic out of the soil and into the fronds in a greenhouse.

The remediation project is managed by Anders Olsen under the direction of Celline Pallud, Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Sciences. The 2-5 year project is funded by a UC Chancellor’s Grant. The goal is to transition the City owned property to uses as a community garden and orchard. The City is developing a land use master plan which will likely include park uses for children who populate the park poor neighborhood in significant numbers.

The experiment will follow EPA protocols dividing plants into 4 groups treating them with various fertilizers and compost to see which best draws the arsenic into the fronds. If successful, the fern fronds will become toxic and will be disposed of as hazardous waste.

C&T is assisting the project by providing scientific advice and pro-bono test and measurement services that adhere to EPA protocols. C&T has assisted in the site characterization by donating test and measurement as well as writing sampling protocols for city employees to follow over the last 6 years. All these services were provided at no cost to the city by C&T as part of our commitment to support our neighbors and community.

The site involves a quarter of the old Santa Feline that ran between Richmondand Oaklandin the early part of the 20th century lies between Ward & Derby Streets just west of Sacramento St.  Locals and neighbors are happy about the project. Today, the site is fenced and covered by waist high weeds. The City owned property has been known to be contaminated for about 6 years with highly elevated levels of Arsenic. Nobody is sure where the Arsenic came from, likely sources are preservatives used in railroad ties, although the relatively high levels of Arsenic found in the soil suggest the site was used as a loading/unloading terminal for bulk Arsenicals used for insecticides and rodenticides in what once was a thriving agricultural community. 

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