One of the more recent additions to the Sanctuary’s gardens, the “L-lot” behind the corner of sixth avenue and Glen street, was tested for lead on October 7th. This new project of NATURE Lab (North Troy Art, Technology and Urban Research in Ecology) is headed by local resident and partner with The Sanctuary for Independent Media, Alex Briggs. Alex Briggs and intern Sierra Sukay, a high school student from Emma Willard, spent the afternoon digging up soil samples and creating a grid of the garden. The grid will allow us to focus our bioremediation efforts on the affected areas.
What will be done if there is lead in the soil?
It is hazardous to grow plants for human consumption in soil that contains too much lead. If we find lead, it will need to be removed from the soil. Currently, we plan to do this through a form of bioremediation called phytoextraction.
What is phytoextraction and how will we use it in our gardens?
It is hazardous to grow plants for human consumption in soil that contains too much lead. If there is lead in soil that you plan to plant a garden, you will first need to take steps to remove the lead from the soil. Currently, the Sanctuary is doing this through a form of bioremediation called phytoextraction. Phytoextraction involves using plants to remove contaminants, such as lead, from the soil. Phytoextraction is better for the environment than traditional methods, which are usually just digging up the contaminated soil and transporting it to a hazardous waste facility which is costly and damaging to the environment. Some plants, such as the sunflower and Indian mustard, absorb and store lead from the soil if the plants are cultivated using specific agronomic practices. After the plants have grown and absorbed the lead, they are harvested and disposed of as hazardous waste. If you would like to learn more phytoextraction click here!
The diagram above illustrates the phytoextraction process and was taken from http://www.epa.gov/region1/leadsafe/pdf/appendixC.pdf.
There are also bioremediation efforts currently underway at the L-lot. We are testing the efficiency of three different plants and their ability to remove lead from the soil. We are using buckwheat, a control of weeds “native” to Troy, and a fungi, mycelium. They were planted this summer and the second round of soil testing to see the results from the fall growing season occurred November 12th, 2014.