A field-scale demonstration project was conducted to evaluate the capability of eastern cottonwood trees (Populus deltoides) to attenuate trichloroethene (TCE) contamination of ground water. By the middle of the sixth growing season, trees planted where depth to water was < 3 m delivered enough dissolved organic carbon to the underlying aquifer to lower dissolved oxygen concentrations, to create iron-reducing conditions along the plume centerline and sulfate-reducing or methanogenic conditions in localized areas, and to initiate in situ reductive dechlorination of TCE. Apparent biodegradation rate constants for TCE along the centerline of the plume beneath the phytoremediation system increased from 0.0002/d to 0.02/d during the first six growing seasons. The corresponding increase in natural attenuation capacity of the aquifer along the plume centerline, from 0.0004/m to 0.024/m, is associated with a potential decrease in plume-stabilization distance from 9680 to 160 m. Demonstration results provide insight into the amount of vegetation and time that may be needed to achieve cleanup objectives at the field scale.
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Long-term changes in ground water chemistry at a phytoremediation demonstration site