Phytoremediation, more broadly referred to as phytotechnology, uses vegetation to contain, sequester, remove, or degrade inorganic and organic contaminants in soil, sediment, surface water, and groundwater.
When dealing with a site contaminated by organic or inorganic substances, traditional methods of site remediation often involve:
- excavating and removing all contaminated soil and disposing of the soil in an environmentally sound manner;
- covering the site with a blanket of uncontaminated soil and installing a runoff control and drainage system to limit the potential contamination of surface water or groundwater;
- other in-situ treatment methods that involve complex physical and/or chemical neutralization or extraction processes.
Phytoremediation is an alternative to these disruptive, destructive, and expensive methods of site remediation.
Through a cooperative effort with the NRCS Plant Materials Center, faculty in the Kansas State University Department of Agronomy developed a phytoremediation database. The database contains more than 120 contaminants and 1,130 plant species. There are more than 1,000 publications on the use of vegetation for phytoremediation and more than 25 case studies describing full-scale phytoremediation in practice.
The database was developed to facilitate the identification of plants that have potential for successful phytoremedation for specific contaminants. The database allows searching by contaminant or plant species, includes references to published research studies, and classifies the phytoremediation success based on eight phytoremediation mechanisms. Read the KSRE article (pdf) for more information on the database and advantages and disadvantages of phytoremediation.
The phytoremediation database is written in Microsoft Access.
Nathan O. Nelson
Joel L. Douglas