Enter Now

The Next Einstein COMPETITION ENTRY

ENTRY TITLE

Utilizing Trees: A Natural Approach to Remediating Contaminated Sites
IDEA BY: Jackie Bell LOCATION: USA CATEGORY: Environment/Sustainability

ENTRY TITLE

Utilizing Trees: A Natural Approach to Remediating Contaminated Sites
IDEA BY: Jackie Bell
LOCATION: USA
CATEGORY: Environment/Sustainability

ENTRY DESCRIPTION

Superfund and contaminated sites are well-documented problem areas that are notoriously hard to remediate -but what if it didn't have to be that way? There is a simple solution to this seemingly overwhelming issue, that produces multiple benefits.

Nature has been utilized and emulated in many different fields of study often with outstanding results. Some plant and tree species have been documented at being exceptionally good at converting harmful chemicals found in soil and groundwater, such as benzene (which can lead to cancer in organisms, and found often in contaminated soils) into inert ones, such as carbon dioxide. I propose expanding on this research further for the remediation of superfund sites and other contaminated land by planting specific flora on them. Current methods are costly, and more often than not, the sites are unusable during the cleanup timeframe (and also as time consuming, or more, than some trees growth rates). Planting trees /vegetation to remediate sites would save on electricity, mechanical time and labor, while providing oxygen. They can be utilized afterwards and harvested for profit, while remaining aesthetically pleasing in the meanwhile. However, some species are able to do this better than others, and a few variables would determine what species could be utilized where: such as climate, the soil-type, invasiveness, the target chemicals on the site in need of removal, the depths these are found, and the given timeframe. I have studied and done research on a few species in NJ, in particular, Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) regarding this application, and would like to see it become a more common method of remediation. I would like to be part of the research developing a model as to what species would be best for individual applications, for a variety of different scenarios. This could be a sensible solution to a daunting task such as remediating contaminated sites, and the remedy could be as simple as planting and monitoring flora.