From the very start, sustainability has played a major role in the development of Pentortoise Projects from a social, ecological and economic viewpoint. The coöperative planning process, working closely together with local residents, environmental associations, heritage protection, tourism organisations and local and cantonal authorities, forms the solid basis for Pentortoise Projects. We have also opened the channels of communication with leaders in natural bio-remediation, which we consider innovative and with the wake of the gulf oil spill there has been abundant practice with much success. Our mission is to stay 100% away from chemical cleaners chemical soil washing. However this may be a slow process, but it would be the safest way to extract the heavy metals and oils by earthworms, mushroom cultures and fast growing vegetation to draw up the toxic remnants. Teams of researchers in Venezuela and Argentina are on the verge of elevating the lowly earthworm to rockstar status when it comes to cleaning up hazardous materials. They are studying the ability of earthworms to remediate soil containing lead, mercury, and other contaminants, and so far the worms seem to be getting the job done, by eating as much as 7–30 times their body mass in one day. Worms and Green Remediation Worms are basically a digestive system that can move about on its own, and humankind has long exploited their capacity for transforming organic matter into rich, nutrient-laden soil through the practice of vermiculture or more domesticly known as the computer. More recently, at least agricultural operations have begun to adopt vermiculture specifically to prevent piles of rotting food waste from contaminating nearby waterways. This comes close to green remediation, which is the use of alternative techniques to clean up contaminated soil or water, rather than digging out the site, capping it off, or treating it with harsh chemicals. Worms and Heavy Metals The new research takes it a step beyond, by using worms to clean up metals and other toxic chemicals. One team used worm-produced soil (vermicompost) to absorb contaminated waste-water that contained nickel, chromium, vanadium, and lead. The other team used a more direct method, setting the earthworms loose on soil contaminated with arsenic and mercury. In both cases, the worms removed a significant amount of the toxins, particularly in the case of arsenic. Another Tool for Green Remediation The green remediation workforce is expanding rapidly. Along with worms, microbes are being recruited into the field. New research is yielding other exotic approaches, like “swelling glass” that can soak up pollutants like a sponge, and “hot bubbles” of pressurized ozone gas that break down pollutants. Meanwhile, the energy needed to run pumps, treatment plants and other remediation equipment is also getting greener, as solar power and other forms of alternative energy are being adopted for site cleanup. In 1881 Darwin wrote: “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.” http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2008/11/ssw_20081115_1208.mp3
As we approach the need to advance our recovery plans and remediation of infected lands, here are a few sound solutions to stimulate growth within the Recovery projects scheme. The team has put together some models for future use of the famed Greenwich Mohawk Brownfield.