Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mushrooms to clean up dioxin in Fort Bragg California

I am a huge proponent of myco-remediation and I often incorporate a bio-remediation stage in site development proposals. That's why I was just tickled pink to read this article in the NYTIMES today.

The legacy of the large timber industry that once owned northern California is large tracts of contaminated land where their mills once stood. In the case of Fort Bragg the municipality was given rights to a 420 acre strip of seashore land that came with a typical toxic-soils caveat... they could have the land only if they dealt with the contamination, specifically five hot-spots that had high levels of dioxin. the options tabled to deal with the soil were either to haul the dirt away, or bury it in a lined landfill on site.

but then they contacted Paul Stamets, mushroom-guru cum-savvy eco-business warrior, and he suggested turkey tail & oyster mushrooms (medicinal tea & stir-frys, respectively). Dioxin (C
4H4O2) is an organic molecule with no heavy metals or radioactive isotopes, and as such it's ripe fodder for the tenacious mushroom mycelium that can break apart the chemical bonds and convert the basic atomic building blocks of carbon and hydrogen into rich mushroom proteins & sugars.

The Fort Bragg community voiced their support and were given a few yards of dioxin contaminated soil & facilities to conduct a myco-remediation experiment. It might be some years before we know for sure how well this works, but it's hopeful to see otherwise dangerous contaminants being turned not only into benign substances but straight into medicine and food.

For those who missed it, the recent San Francisco oil spill, resulting from an inebriated bar pilot slamming a tanker into the footing of the Bay Bridge, was cleaned up using mats made of human hair donated by the city's stylists and barbers. The mats were then hauled off and DIGESTED... oil & all, by oyster mushrooms, also provided by Paul Stamets.

and finally here's the first board from my final project last year where I proposed deconstructing the 101 Freeway in the Presidio and digesting the asphalt using mushrooms.

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