Phytoremediation of Contaminated Water and Soil

S. D. Cunningham, J. R. Shann, David E. Crowley, Todd A. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


Phytoremediation is the use of green plant-based systems to remediate contaminated soils, sediments, and water. Relative to many traditional remediation engineering techniques, phytoremediation is a fledgling technology intended to address a wide variety of surficial contaminants. Phytoremediation targets currently include contaminating metals, metalloids, petroleum hydrocarbons, pesticides, explosives, chlorinated solvents, and industrial by-products. The primary market driver for continued research in this area is the significant cost reduction these systems appearto afford. Phytoremediation, however has inherent limitations in that plants are living organisms with specific oxygen, water, nutrient and pH limits that must be maintained. In addition, significant depth, concentration, and time frame limitations also apply. Despite these limitations, many forms of phytoremediation have emerged from the laboratories and are currently in practice. Commercial phytoremediation systems for clean up of shallow aquifers and water born contaminants are now in place. Field tests for the phytoextraction of metals from contaminated soils are underway as well as advanced stabilization trials. For the most part, the current practices are technically sound, but far from optimized. Field tests have generally been met by good regulatory and public acceptance, yet improvements and extensions can and will be made on many of them. The biological resource for phytoremediation remains largely untapped. Bringing multi-disciplinary teams consisting of biologists, chemists, engineers, as well as lawyers, accountants, and public advocates should continue to yield additional solutions and possibilities for continued application of phytoremediation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-17
Number of pages16
JournalACS Symposium Series
StatePublished - 1997


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