Phytoremediation of Soil and Organic Compounds
Phytoremediation can be a low cost, effective alternative to the conventional methods of
soil remediation. Phytoremediation is the use of vegetation to take up contaminants
from the ground or water. Phytoremediation can remove
metals from water. However, it is also very effective in remediating soil and organic
How Does Phytoremediation Work?
Plant roots take contaminants from the ground into the "body" of the plant. The plant
root zone is referred to as the rhizosphere, this is where the action occurs. This soil
supports large populations of diverse microorganisms. This is due to chemicals exuded by
plant roots which provide carbon and energy for microbial growth. This combination of
plants and microorganisms appears to increase the biodegradation of compounds.
The following graphic shows a typical process diagram of phytoremediation.
Notice how simple the diagram is. Phytoremediation is a very basic process. The setup of
a typical one acre phytoremediation site might look like the following diagram.
Contaminants and Contamination Levels
Phytoremediation is effective in the remediation of all types of soil contaminants,
however it is more effective on lower concentrations of contaminants. The previous page
listed the metals. Some of the organic compounds are:
Other contaminants from TNT, pesticides, chlorinated solvents, and fuel/oil
Types of Vegetation Used
Some of the plants used in phytoremediation are:
Hybrid Poplar Trees
Yellow or White Water Lillies
Pros and Cons of Phytoremediation
- Phytoremediation is cost effective
- It is suited to remediation of large areas of soil
- It is environmentally friendly
- Phytoremediation sites are more aesthetically pleasing
- Phytoremediation sites are low maintenance
- It involves no noisy and expensive equipment
- Not as effective for sites with high contaminant concentrations
- Phytoremediation is slower than conventional methods
- It does not work through the winter (Seasonally effective)
As more research is conducted we can be sure that we will be hearing more about phytoremediation, the low cost alternative.
and Hayes Rembijas
Fall 97 Env. Syst. Eng.