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Dynamic accumulators for removing soil/water contaminants?

 
Posts: 25
Location: South of the the headwaters to the tributary at the final bend of the Monongahela River
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It seem that most of the threads here revolve around making minerals biologically available to food producing plants.
I'm curious about doing something somewhat opposite first.
I need a list of things that absorb, render insoluble, or otherwise remove toxic contaminants, or over-abundant minerals, mainly heavy metals like lead, murcury, arsenic, zinc, cobalt, chromium, nickel, iron and copper.
Plants that could do this, withstand high acidity and process sulphates would be extremely useful for abandoned mine runoff and soil decontamination...
 
steward
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Hey Donald, take a look at Paul Stamets' work with remediation using mushrooms.

 
Donald Johnson
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Location: South of the the headwaters to the tributary at the final bend of the Monongahela River
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That's awesome! Fungi have a ton of biochemical pathways that do all sorts of things with many different materials!
It would be very worth-while to look for appropriate fungi cultures to inoculate different remediation situations with.
I think I've heard about a species of bacteria that incorporate arsenic into the structure of their DNA.
Specific microorganisms would also be very useful for this type of project...
 
gardener
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The term you want to Google is "bioremediation".  There has been a ton of research and practice on using plants to filter water as it runs off things like parking lots or animal feedlots.  Artificial wetlands are commonly planned around new construction to manage to the flow of water and capture toxic metals, solvents, and other chemicals that would otherwise make their way into the watershed.

On a much simpler scale, people use this same natural technology to filter grey water from their sinks, showers and washing machines.

Best of luck.
 
pollinator
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Hi Donald.

Miles' advice is what I would have started with, too. If you want more Paul Stamets (I think he's awesome), check out the Joe Rogan interview. I have included it.



He covers a lot of material. I like this clip for how much of the depth and breadth there exists of mycology of which people just aren't aware.

But to your question, there are many plants that can be grown that will sequester heavy metals into themselves, that you could grow out and harvest, with the heavy-metal laden plant matter either pelletized for burning in a pellet stove or for mulching in areas depleted of minerals that won't be growing food, but rather, say woodlot or fibre crops that won't enter the food stream. I would harvest fruiting bodies of mushrooms growing on the soil you are remediating and treat them the same as the biomass I wouldn't be pelletizing, dropping them in my woodlot, and regularly testing batches of them until tests showed a dropoff in the amount of heavy metals in the fruiting bodies. When they tested as safe to eat, I would consider the land remediated.

One of my favourite plants for this is hemp, specifically fibre strains grown for fibre, meaning closely spaced, to encourage thick stems and minimal branching. There are species of reed and cattail that do well in that sphere as well.

But good luck, and let us know how it goes.

-CK
 
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Hi Donald,

I was researching this topic as well.  We have a Creek lined with railroad ties that have been there for over 50 years. I’m concerned about the arsinic and of her toxic chemicals that have leached into the shoreline as well as the water. I found that some they are using ferns to clean up arsinic.  I’m not sure it would work for my climate.

http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/2004/08/06/fern.php

-Hollis
 
Chris Kott
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The culprit with railroad ties is usually creosote. Arsenic is usually found in conjunction with those greenish pressure-treated products (Arsenic is literally forced into the material under pressure).

I would use the same approach, though with a pond, I would focus on reeds and cattails. If there's enough biomass on top of and in the soil, I would apply compost extracts and fungal slurries. A thriving soil biology is pretty much the only actual option for remediation, along with the chopping and relocation of sequestration plants away from the area.

-CK
 
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Donald Johnson wrote:It seem that most of the threads here revolve around making minerals biologically available to food producing plants.
I'm curious about doing something somewhat opposite first.
I need a list of things that absorb, render insoluble, or otherwise remove toxic contaminants, or over-abundant minerals, mainly heavy metals like lead, murcury, arsenic, zinc, cobalt, chromium, nickel, iron and copper.
Plants that could do this, withstand high acidity and process sulphates would be extremely useful for abandoned mine runoff and soil decontamination...



Where is this contamination located? stream bed, hillside, gentle slope to a drainage, etc., what is the weather like in your locale. ?

With that information you could get better, more specific recommendations, as it is generalization is all that is mostly available.
Reeds, nettles and Cattails like  marshy conditions to thrive, good old comfrey likes partial shade to full sun, even corn, tomatoes, mustard, kale, turnip, would work in a remediation setting.
There is also the wood chip bed seeded with oyster mushroom spawn that will work in many land conditions.

With out knowing what your land looks like or the lay of that land, little else can be done besides broad generalizations.

Redhawk
 
Donald Johnson
Posts: 25
Location: South of the the headwaters to the tributary at the final bend of the Monongahela River
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Thank you all so much for the wonderful information and great leads to follow-up on!
I haven't acquired any of the land yet, but I want to live somewhere in that valley, and establish a permaculture and green infrastructure land management strategy on a large (public works or industrial) scale, producing economically viable soil remediators for funding (hemp is a big example, when that becomes legal) and ultimately transition remediated land and water ways into a residential food forest with enough biomass to support to support its own population and the surrounding communities, as well as permaculture wild areas for healthy animals to free range and people to hunt for food or back-yard safari.
I see this entire suburban watershed that could become an incredible regional improvement with proper land and water management.
Basically the mine runoff problem here is so widespread and varied that any imaginable situation is probably relevant. I'll make separate posts detailing a few different situations that I found so far.
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Satellite of watershed
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Topo map
 
Donald Johnson
Posts: 25
Location: South of the the headwaters to the tributary at the final bend of the Monongahela River
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the whole valley system is steep hillsides and floodplains that channel a ton of water very quickly into the main stream after a rain event. There are a few flat areas, but pretty much everything is on some sort of usually steep slope.
This is in Baldwin in the main source of the blue streambed acid mine precipitate.
This land has backed taxes, and I'd like to use this problem to get the land from the borough that I lived in my whole life. There are also a few healthy looking springs feeding the creek on this parcel of land.
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Here's where it hits the stream
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Here's what the initial blow-out did to the main stream
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That's the streambed, not the sky
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The slope that this is flowing down
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And this is where it's seeping out of the ground
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Marco Banks
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Those are fascinating pictures.

In your OP, you mentioned a list of chemicals that are leaching from the site.  The quantity of the toxins is the key variable.  How much lead, mercury, arsenic, zinc, cobalt, chromium, nickel, iron and copper?  As they say, dilution is the solution to pollution.  A tiny bit of those chemicals in naturally occurring ecosystems is to be expected.  But in concentrated volumes, they become a health hazard.  So while it looks pretty funky, how much of that is mercury and arsenic, bad stuff, and how much of it is iron . . . not so bad, just rusty looking?  

Is there any signage that warns people to stay away?  Is it listed anywhere as a toxic site or a superfund site?  Is there life in that waterway where the pollutants run?  Fish?  Frogs?

Does the site continue to "seep" throughout the year, or only when it rains?

Your pictures have got me very interested.
 
Marco Banks
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https://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/news/2015/10/20/you-wont-believe-how-many-abandoned-mines-are.html

 
Marco Banks
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Apparently Pennsylvania is honeycombed with abandoned coal mines.  What you are describing is pretty wide-spread.  Bioremediation is a growing body of knowledge, but not that much research has taken place dealing with mines.

Here are a few academic articles that I've found:

Assessing Bioremediation of Acid Mine Drainage in Coal Mining Sites Using a Predictive Neural Network-Based Decision Support System NNDSS)

https://www.omicsonline.org/assessing-bioremediation-of-acid-mine-drainage-in-coal-mining-sites-using-a-predictive-neural-network-based-decision-support-system-nndss-2155-6199.1000148.php?aid=6233

The Attenuation of Chemical Elements in Acidic leachates from coal mineral wastes by soils

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02509910

Acidophilic microbial communities: Candidates for bioremediation of acidic mine effluents
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/096483059500065D

Use of constructed wetlands for acid mine drainage abatement and stream restoration.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11804133

This last one was very interesting, and something that would potentially be a solution for you.  If you could create a wetland somewhere near the initial source of the pollution/seepage.  Catching it near the source and treating it with a bioremediation wetland would be optimum.  I would think that there would be government money to create such a solution.  But you'd need to get in there with heavy equipment (I'd imagine) to create such a wetland (or series of wetlands).  They count the cost of this project alone to be about $9,000,000.  But perhaps your site is much simpler.
 
Donald Johnson
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Location: South of the the headwaters to the tributary at the final bend of the Monongahela River
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Thanks for the links! I'll definitely check them out when I have time.
To answer asked questions;
We have a humid continental climate, and moisture from the gulf coast gets forced out of the atmosphere by the western side of the Appalachian mountains.
Rainfall used to be occasional and regular, but this regions climate appears to be transitioning to a either drought/monsoon cycle or subtropical rainforest. Rain events are becoming a lot more concentrated.
As for the composition of the contaminants, I'm working on making connections with some local university professors to get samples analyzed.
As for environmental impact, nothing lives in the main stream, occasionally I will see minnows if there wasn't a new blowout recently, there are uncontaminated ponds and headwater sections that support aquatic life, but most of the stream system itself is dead. Near the source points, the runoff strips bark from the trees that it flows past, and kills them if the roots get into it.
This problem is extremely widespread here, so much so that our subsurface water flow is determined more by abandoned coal mines than anything else.
I'm honestly kinda shocked that there are any wells or springs in this area that are still safe to drink from, but they do exist!
 
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