Probiotics help poplar trees clean up toxins in Superfund sites

Read the full story from the University of Washington.

Researchers from the University of Washington and several small companies have conducted the first large-scale experiment on a Superfund site using poplar trees fortified with a probiotic — or natural microbe — to clean up groundwater contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE), a common pollutant found in industrial areas that is harmful to humans when ingested through water or inhaled from the air. Their results were published in final form Aug. 11 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Sourcing Urban Soil Contaminants to Improve Cleanup

Read the full story from the U.S. EPA.

Identifying the source of soil contaminants is vital to decision-making during an environmental cleanup. Soil in long-established cities has accumulated decades of low levels of pollutants caused by urban activity. Deposition of metals and other chemicals like polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) come from historical industrial activity and manufacturing materials used to build the infrastructure of a modern society. Naturally occurring metals such as lead and arsenic may also occur in urban soil. The combination of natural and anthropogenic background levels of chemicals is known as urban background contamination.

Urban background contaminants are generally widely dispersed in low levels over large urban areas. These metals and chemicals can intermingle with higher concentrations of chemicals from spills and industrial waste. This creates challenges in understanding how an industrial site is contributing to overall soil contamination.

Pruitt says EPA will create ‘top-10’ list for Superfund cleanup

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt vowed Tuesday to cut through bureaucratic red tape that has slowed the cleanup of toxic Superfund sites and follow a task force’s recommendations to act more boldly in holding companies responsible for past contamination…

But many critics question his ability to turn around the issues, including regulatory delays and litigation, that have meant lagging progress. The administrator has defended a White House budget proposal that would cut his agency’s funding by 34 percent for fiscal 2018 and would reduce funding for Superfund sites by $330 million annually.

Polymer network captures drinking water contaminant

Read the full story in Chemical & Engineering News.

Long-chain perfluorinated chemicals contaminate millions of Americans’ drinking water. These compounds are a legacy of industrial pollution and the use of firefighting foam at military bases and airports; they persist in the environment because of their strong carbon-fluorine bonds. Now scientists have designed a cross-linked polymer that might more effectively remove one of the more prevalent and harmful of these compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b02381).

Scott Pruitt vows to speed the nation’s Superfund cleanups. Communities wonder how.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

In Bridgeton and elsewhere, others are asking similar questions with various degrees of hope and hesi­ta­tion. In his previous role as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt had long-standing ties to oil and gas companies and a litigious history fighting the EPA. And although he has called the federal Superfund program “vital” and a “cornerstone” of the EPA’s mission, the Trump administration has proposed slashing its funding by 30 percent.

Underserved Twin Cities neighborhoods to benefit from EPA grant

Read the full story from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

A $300,000 federal grant may help pump economic life into some formerly polluted lands in the Twin Cities area. On May 31, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) selected the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to receive $300,000 in funding for brownfields site revitalization. The funds will be used to help assess, cleanup and redevelop vacant and unused properties in underserved neighborhoods in the Twin Cities region.