Phytoremediation Uses Plants To Cleanup Contaminated Soil And Fill

EWMA is constantly searching for ways to achieve remediation goals in a more efficient and cost-effective manner through innovative technologies. In this regard, one of the more promising technologies is phytoremediation, which can effectively remediate hundreds of thousands of low-level hazardous contaminant impacted sites worldwide (30,000 in the US), especially in the context of contaminated historic fill. Phytoremediation is a type of bioremediation that uses plants, herbs, and trees to absorb contaminant pollutants from air, water, and soil, and it has been used to clean up toxic metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives, petroleum hydrocarbons and even nuclear radiation.

The benefits of phytoremediation include lower long-term remediation costs and the option to avoid or limit the use of soil excavation, ground water treatment and intensive chemical mitigation strategies which may severely impact the surrounding ecosystem. It often is the only acceptable remedial alternative for certain environmentally sensitive receptors, such as wetlands and preserved space. To implement this technology, appropriate plant species are chosen based on site-specific environmental conditions, planted on-site and monitored. For example, historic fill and pesticide-impacted soils can be remediated with deciduous trees with long taproots (such as those in the Poplar group), and several flowering herbs are appropriate for use in landscape architecture designs for new buildings. Coupling phytoremediation with landscape design as part of brownfields redevelopment can provide a lower cost long-term remediation alternative that speeds up the natural attenuation process, while at the same time providing an aesthetic improvement to the property.    

Because of its effectiveness and low environmental impact, phytoremediation has been accepted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through its guidance document “Brownfields Technology Primer: Selecting and Using Phytoremediation for Site Cleanup” (EPA 2001). With the NJDEP’s new monitored natural attenuation regulations, phytoremediation has become much more attractive to developers than other remediation strategies due to the many advantages it offers to those who are green at heart-not only in an eco-friendly sense, but financially as well. EWMA can help you to develop a remediation plan, based on site conditions, to take advantage of this innovative strategy.

For more information about our Phytoremediation services, or if you have any questions, please contact Michael Sylvester at or (973) 560-1400 x187 or John Coviello at or (973) 560-1400 x184.


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