The Fisherville Mill Canal on the Blackstone River in Grafton, MA has been contaminated for decades by #6 fuel oil in its waters. John Todd Ecological Design (http://toddecological.com/) with the participation of the town of Grafton, USEPA, MA DEP, MA Audubon Society, Blackstone Headwaters Coalition, Clark University, Brown University, US National Park Service, Fisherville Redevelopment Corporation, Fungi Perfecti Inc, and others began a bioremediation project cleaning the water with natural processes on May 27, 2012. This approach to remediation includes
microbial, fungal, plant and animal biodiversity supported by engineered habitats for the ecosystems. Ecological design uses biodiversity in lieu of high-energy mechanical and chemical systems.
Oil contaminated water from the bottom of the canal is pumped through tubes filled with gravel for filtration into the greenhouse to be sprayed on fungal mycellium beds and then flows into a series of six aquatic cells, large transparent tanks filled with water, each comprising a different highly diverse aquatic ecological system. From the greenhouse, the water is pumped to an artificial floating marsh-like system known as a restorer, with plants that grow above the surface of the canal and root systems that extend below the water, providing habitat for a variety of micro-organisms which remove contaminants from the water in the canal. The greenhouse treats five hundred gallons of water per day, five hundred gallons full of diverse and beneficial life is pumped back into the canal each day. John guesstimates that the restorer filters about 100,000 gallons of water per day. This whole system is an eco-machine, a working ecological chemostat.
Tests show there has been a 75% reduction in petroleum contaminants in the treated water since the beginning of the project on May 27, 2012, according to the initial results which came in on July 17, 2012 from samples taken on June 15, 2012.
"The purpose of this project is to prove the efficacy of natural systems to remove complex contaminents from the Fisherville Mill Canal."The hope is it will also improve water quality downstream.
I learned about this project on a visit to Falmouth, MA to see John and Nancy Todd, two of the founders of New Alchemy Institute and old friends. John has been doing ecological design since the 1960s and his speciality is water and waste treatment. On this project, he included fungi as part of his ecological restoration system and is working with Paul Stamets, a well-known expert on mycology, for the first time.
It was exciting to be there on the day that the first test results from the Fisherville Mill Canal arrived.
Here are John's fundamental principles of ecological design:
Geological and mineral diversity must be present to evolve the biological responsiveness of rich soils.
You can see many examples of John's work, including another canal restoration project in China, by visiting his website: http://toddecological.com/
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