Superfund Research Program
Remediation of Asbestos Particles
- Project Summary
Project work began in Autumn 2014, when ripe seeds could be collected from naturally occurring grasslands for use in future greenhouse experiments with asbestos contaminated soils. Seeds, soils, and vegetative plant material were collected from three serpentine grasslands, one metal polluted site and one grassland site without elevated metals, all within 125 miles of Philadelphia. Serpentine soils are naturally high in magnesium, chromium, and iron and have low calcium:magnesium ratios, all of which affect plant growth and soil chemistry. Asbestos spoil piles in Ambler, PA are dominated by calcite-quartz-chrysotile mixtures and have similar elemental abundance and bioavailable nutrients compared to serpentine soils. Target plant species were warm season grasses that thrive on serpentine and rely heavily on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Soils containing arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi were taken from beneath the same plant species at each site and used to start fungal cultures on a standard host plant in the greenhouse, a sorghum-Sudan grass hybrid. These fungi cannot be cultured without a plant host. Cultures will be maintained for about six months, after which water will be withheld to cause fungi to produce spores, and spores will then be used in greenhouse experiments with asbestos.