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Introduction to Phytoremediation. EPA/600/R-99/107 February 2000 Phytoremediation Overview. Phytohydraulics. Phytodegradation. Phytoextraction. Phytostabilization. Phytovolatalization. Rhizodegradation. Rhizofiltration.

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introduction to phytoremediation

Introduction to Phytoremediation


February 2000


Phytoremediation practice

Normal plant

Engineered plant thrive on arsenic

Poplar trees


Phytoremediation of Selenium by two helophyte species in subsurface flow constructed wetland.

Shardendu, N. Salhani, S.F. Boulyga, E. Stengel

Chemosphere 50 (2003) 967-973


Key Species in Study

  • Phragmites australis
  • Known as theCommon reed
  • Native to Florida
  • Very large grass (up to 16 feet tall)
  • Grows in colonies in several feet of water or along moist shores (Florida, 2002).

Key Species in Study

  • Typha latifolia
  • Common Cattail
  • Can be up to 10 feet tall
  • Found nearly worldwide
  • Can be found almost anywhere soil remains wet, saturated, or flooded most of the growing season (Typha, 2002).
constructed wetlands
Defined as a “designed and man-made complex of saturated substrates, emergent and submergent vegetation, animal life, and water that simulates natural wetlands for human use and benefits." (Hammer, 1989)

Constructed wetlands is one method used to help purify wastewaters.


AMOVA Facility

Fig. 1. Outline of the experimental device for tap layer

supplying with sodium selenate (Na2SeO4) in one vegetated bed with sampling points (AMOVA facility).


Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS)

Plasma, Argon gas, is used to atomize and ionize the elements in a sample. The resulting ions are then passed through a series of apertures (cones) into the high vacuum analyzer. The isotopes of the elements are identified by their mass-to-charge ratio (m/e) and the intensity of a specific peak in the mass spectrum is proportional to the amount of that isotope (element) in the original sample.


What is Selenium?

  • Naturally occurring element
  • Found in most rocks and soils – combines with silver, copper, lead, and nickel minerals
  • Metallic gray to black hexagonal crystals
  • Most selenium is processed for the electronics industry, then for a nutritional supplement
  • Also used as a nutritional feed additive for poultry and livestock, pesticide formulations, rubber production, antidandruff shampoos, and fungicides. (ATSDR, 2001)

Why is Selenium Harmful?

  • Low doses of selenium are necessary for maintaining good health
  • Chronic Oral Exposure of high levels of selenium can cause the disease, selenosis.
    • The major symptoms are hair loss, brittle nails, neurological abnormalities
  • Most laboratory studies show that selenium “probably does not cause cancer”. In fact, studies have shown that lower than normal selenium levels in the diet might increase the risk of cancer.
  • EPA has determined that selenium sulfide is the only form of selenium that might be a human carcinogen.
  • EPA restricts public drinking water to 50 ppb and OSHA restricts workroom air to 0.2 mg for an 8-hour shift. (ATSDR, 2001).

Selenium Migration over Time

Fig. 2. Profile of selenium

migration on first day

(May 31, 1999) from inlet to

other points and outlet in

Phragmites, Typha (a) and

gravel bed (b). Sampling points

1, 2, 3 and 4, inlet (I) and

outlet (O).


Selenium from Inlet to Outlet Over Time

Fig. 3. Inlet and outlet selenium concentration with time duration in Typha and Phragmites beds during full experiment period.


Selenium Concentration Profiles

Fig. 4. Selenium concentration profiles(n=12) with RSD along the bed length in Typha, Phragmites and control bed. (*) Under detection limit (0.05 g Se/l).


Oxygen Concentration, Water Temperature, and pH

Fig. 5. Course of mean (n=7) oxygen

concentration, water temperature and pH values (a, b, c) with RSD values and corresponding Se concentration at different sampling

points along the beds of Typha, Phragmites and gravel control.



Fig. 6. Bioaccumulation of Se in belowground (organic material,

roots, rhizomes) and aboveground (stems, leaves) parts of the

plant species at segment S1 and S4: (a) Se content in Typha

control; (b) Se content in Phragmites control; (c) Se content in

Typha after 65 d and (d) Se content in Phragmites after 65 d. (*)

Under detection limit (0.4 g Se/g dry matter).



  • Phragmites is better equipped to uptake selenium in subsurface flows.
  • The density of Phragmites was about 7 times higher than the Typha. This explains why the flow of water through the Typha was so much quicker.
  • Selenium concentration was undetectable 3/4 into the Phragmites bed.
  • 54% of the original selenium concentration was measured at the Typha outlet
  • Phragmites accumulated selenium in its stems and leaves while the Typha held the selenium in its roots and rhizomes. This is important for harvesting techniques in the most economic and least destructive way.
  • 5) The oxygen concentration and pH value for Phragmites decreased at a higher rate over the course of each bed than the values for Typha
  • Aquatic Wetland and Invasive Plant Particulars and Photographs. University of Florida. 2002
  • USEPA, 2001, EPA 542
  • Hammer, D.A.,1989, Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment: Municipal, Industrial and Agricultural, ed. Lewis Publishers, Inc. Chelsea, Michigan.
  • Payton, James, 1996, Constructed Wetlands,
  • Typha latifolia: Common Cattail 2002.
  • Laboratory

University of Missouri Research Reactor. 2002

  • With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term `brownfield site' means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant

The Brownfields Site definition is found in Public Law 107-118 (H.R. 2869) - "Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act" signed into law January 11, 2002.

epa brownfields program
EPA Brownfields Program
  • Results-oriented program started in 1995
  • Brings together states, communities, and stakeholders in economic redevelopment
  • Work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse brownfields
  • ~450,000 brownfields in the U.S.: industrial sites, abandoned gas stations, dry cleaners, commercial operations
what can brownfields offer
What can Brownfields offer?
  • Clean up environmental hazards
  • Remove neighborhood eyesores
  • Create jobs
  • Boost tax revenue
  • Provide housing
  • General economic health in local communities
barriers to brownfields
Barriers to Brownfields
  • Environmental liability
  • Contaminated properties are subject to environmental regulations and procedures – can lead to construction delays
  • Pollution concerns
approaches for brownfields
Approaches for Brownfields
  • View contaminated sites as an economic development issue with an environmental twist
  • View projects as real-estate deals that further community development goals
  • Begin cleanup and reuse with the end in mind
  • Understand that regulatory processes need to dovetail with development time frames

“If contaminated…sites are viewed as only pollution problems, disconnected from community revitalization goals and economic development strategies, then efforts to reuse these sites will flounder.”

chevy place rochester ny
Chevy Place - Rochester, NY
  • Car dealership/repair shop/gas station 1930 –1990
  • Abandoned USTs
  • Total cleanup costs, including remediation $750,000