January 10, 2014
In a recent workshop the City of Portland, Oregon sponsored for its Willamette River Central Reach Plan , planners asked for habitat enhancement “projects that would have larger bang for the buck”. . . “projects that would have a multiplier effect in terms of watershed health.” Mycofiltration—the use of mycorrhizal mushrooms and their mycelia to filter pollutants would rank high on both of these criteria.
Mycofiltration will reduce harmful pollutants commonly found in urban stormwater runoff, such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. It also eliminates E-coli and other bacteria from pet wastes and waterfowl. Because adding mushroom spores to remediation sites is very inexpensive and low-impact, it has the potential to be a sustainable option well into the future.
In most places, stormwater runoff goes directly into streams, rivers and oceans and recycles through the watershed carrying the pollutants with it. And that it is a big problem for salmon and wildlife survival. Mycofiltration should be added as a treatment to enhance the activity of existing stormwater management biofiltration cells such as the rain gardens, bioswales and green streets that are plentiful in Portland. By adding Garden Giant (Stropharia rugosoannulata) mycelium to the soil mix, harmful substances that come from heavily trafficked roads such as I-5, I-84 and the motor vehicle bridges in the Central Reach: Broadway, Steel, Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne, Markham, Ross Island can be transformed into carbohydrates and nutrients — which are actually useful to surrounding soil and plants cheap cialis overnight delivery.
By adding mycofilters to biofiltration cells installed in places where people walk their dogs such as South Waterfront, Riverplace, Waterfront Park, Eastbank Esplanade, etc., E-coli and other bacteria from pet wastes that were not properly disposed of can become a nutrient rather than a pollutant. Having these mushrooms in the mix can actually help the native plants we are planting in streambank restoration and biofiltration cell facilities grow more robustly. Instead of dealing with pollutants, their roots are getting more nutrients.
I was fortunate enough to meet inspirational mushroom guru, Paul Stamets (here he is giving a TED talk) when he was first starting his farm near Olympia, WA in the 1980s. He had just wowed the Washington Department of Ecology with the use of mushrooms to clean up the E-Coli and fecal coliform problem caused by his farm animals. In a single year he had achieved a 99% reduction in pollutants despite doubling the number of animals on the farm.
Since that time, I have gone on to found my business PlanGreen around using ecosystem services to deal with urban stormwater and other environmental problems/opportunities. I believe, as Stamets does, that the Earth has its own immune system and that we need to learn to better work with that immune system. Although I have been excited about the efforts that Portland and other communities throughout the nation are making in biofiltration—using plants and soil to filter stormwater–I have long wondered why we were not utilizing mushrooms as well.
So, I was thrilled to see “Can Mushrooms Help Fight Stormwater Pollution?” as a link on the Oregon Environmental Council’s “Oregon Stormwater” listserve. The story (first published on Sightline’s blog on Nov. 13, 2013 , then picked up by Public Broadcasting’s Earthfix) indicates that Fungi Perfecti is looking for partners to help further the research it did under a grant from EPA. The study itself, Fungi Perfecti, LLC.: EPA Phase I, Mycofiltration Biotechnology Research Summary, concludes that additional research is needed to clearly define treatment design and operating parameters.
That sounds like a challenge that Portland area jurisdictions would relish. So PlanGreen is seeking to broker partnerships between Fungi Perfecti and receptive jurisdictions. Beyond treatment design and operating parameters, some of the issues to be resolved by those partnerships might be[i]:
- Whether or not the mushrooms grown on decomposing toxic wastes are safe to eat.
- To what degree of decomposition by mycelium of toxic soils makes the soils safe for food crops [including food for wildlife]
- How economically practical will it be to remove mushrooms that have hyper-accumulated heavy metals. . .? Which species are best for hyper accumulating specific metals?
- How to finance/design composting centers around population centers near pollution threats.
However, whether or not our cities, ports and other transportation agencies can qualify for the robust monitoring needed for the Fungi Perfecti research, we have enough anecdotal evidence (and PlanGreen and its partners have enough knowledge and materials) to get to the starting gate right now. As Stamets says in his book, Mycelium Running, “Now is the time to ensure the future of our planet and our species by partnering, or running, with mycelium.”
[i] These issues were borrowed from Stamets’ The Petroleum Problem, on the Fungi Perfecti website.
Please see May 6, 2015 post titled Mycoremediation: Mushrooms Cleaning Soils and Water in Portland for further information on this topic.
My brother recommended I might like this website. He was totally right.
This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine just how much
time I had spent for this information! Thanks!
Mycofiltration is a good example of biomimicry. I wonder if an institutional donor or a crowdsourced fund is most feasible for the needed implementation research.
The sooner the U.S. EPA reviews needed research and acknowledges mycofiltration as a best practice, the likelier it can be used to meet regulatory objectives. It would also find greater reception among agencies that enforce EPA rules, such as Clean Water Services (CWS) that serves urbanized Washington County.
Thanks Colin! I appreciate your concern with regulatory objectives and agree that mycofiltration deserves best practice status. That’s why I’m trying to get the City of Portland involved in the research–as Portland’s BES already does so much research of this kind. Good idea about crowdfunding it! I’ll pass that on to Fungi Perfecti and BES. Meanwhile, I need to make a few phone calls about student funding it–at least with their labor. . . One of my partners on this, Devta Khalsa, is talking to folks in Washington County as well.
great article! is there any research done on whether mycelia are effective at reducing phosphorous loads? that is a particular concern in my region.
See this summary of a TED talk on mushrooms and phosphorus: http://blog.ted.com/2013/10/29/9-ways-mushrooms-could-drastically-improve-the-world/. I’m also passing your question on to folks at Fungi Perfecti and will pass along their answer.