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Biological cleaning of soil toxics

I passed the question of cleaning toxics from the soil on to my online
permaculture class.  One of the monitors came up with this reply, which I
repost with his permission.  Obviously it is much easier to keep poison out
of something than to extract it after mixing it in real good.  I'm not sure
how practical biological (or other) extraction of toxins can be, personally.
 If that is all one has, I guess it is worth a shot.  In any case, this seems
to be a very good answer to the question, so I pass it along.

Dan Hemenway
Forwarded message:
From:	wmh@online.dct.com (Wm Hurrle)
To:	Elfpermacl@aol.com
Date: 97-01-31 10:15:52 EST

Dear Dan,

        Green Bay has one of the planet's intense concentrations of paper
mills, and industrial activity has contaminated much so I look for bio
cleaning. Rufus Chaney, ag research service agronomist at ARS Environmental
Chemistry Lab in Beltsville, 301-504-5048, focuses on plants that scavenge
heavy metals. Miners used them as indicators. Chaney calls them
hyperaccumulators, and their ash is similar to commercial ore. Tests are
ongoing at the Pig's Eye Landfill in St. Paul, MN, and Palmerton, PN's town
park. Ragweed and Thlaspi rotundifollium get lead, Thlaspi caerulescens;
Alpine pennycress, gets cadmium and zinc. Chaney's team says the plants
take up metals too slowly, e.g. 100 lbs Zn/A-yr for pennycress, and are
jiggering genes to speed things. I'm quoting from "Metal-Scavenging Plants
to Cleanse the Soil", Agricultural Research, Nov '95.
        The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden, CO, has
screened algae for their ability to trap heavy metals. Some produce a slime
that captures metal ions. The algae are embedded in fiberglass filters that
absorb metals from waste streams such as acid mine drainage. Some
photsynthetic bacteria get metals, too, e.g. Escherichia coli gets mercury,
others get lead, copper, arsenic, cadmium, uranium VI, silver and gold
ions. Microbiologist Pin-Ching Maness has three bacterial strains that get
organic contaminats such as m-chlorobenzoate, a PCB and chlorinated
pesticide breakdown product. Another strain gets p-cresol, a creosote
breakdown product; another furfural, a weed killer and sulfite paper making
byproduct. Contact Chris Rivard, 303-384-7631, at NREL. I read it in NREL
in Review, Summer '95.
        I'm keeping a file and am especially interested in organic ways to
remediate PCBs, which are plentiful here. So, are buried petrol tanks. We
have a solar powered remediation booster system for them. Air collectors
heat air, pv powers a diaphragm pump which pushes the warmed air into
microslit pipe buried in the greasy soil. Both air sparging of the most
volatile hydrocarbons and warming and oyxgenating microbes to x7 action go
        Smitty at AAA Solar Service & Suppy, 2021 Zearing Av.NW,
Albuquerque, NM 87104, 800-245-0311, www.rt66.com/aaasolar,
aaasolar@rt66.com, has a dozen employees and leads the world's largest
solar salvage outfit. Get his catalog. He markets to technopeasants all the
time, and permaculture people fit right in.
        For your VT kid. The Canadian R-2000 code is the model for
constructing a superinsulated home. The Energy Efficient Builders Assn.
2950 Metro Dr., Ste 108, Minneapolis, MN 55425, 612-851-9940, www.eeba.org.
has the EEBA Builder Field Guide, $40, and would have VT members who would
get the project off right. Put 8-10% of the floor area in south facing,
30o, glass for optimum passive gain and keep the rest,EWN, of the window
area down. 10o or so E of S is optimum. To work the house has to have <3.0
air changes per hour when depressurized to 50 Pascals, a heat recovery
ventilation system that supplies / removes air to every habitable room and
have no open flamed appliances. All combustion has nothing to do with
interior air. Added cost, 3-5%, should result in $250/yr heating bills or
      I have a daughter in SF, she's a fountain jack, a cross between a
sculptor and a plumber, and it is the right city for her now. For your
place's flora, saw palmetto? An extract of its berries is most effective
for enlarged prostrates, enlarging in ageing Boomer males, among others,
and $10-$15 / bottle in the nutrition pill stores.
      The Broadway urban ag project has captured my imagination. I'm
approaching it from a permaculture perspective, mixing it with what I can
find on urbaculture. I found Canada's City Farmer www.cityfarmer.org, and
from there, Jac Smit, TUAN,(though NREL also had a story on UA and Jac's
fone) & have ordered its book. I'm sure he knows of you. Joanna at
Remineralize the Earth is another netizen we have in common.

For the Earth, Bill