UPDATE, Sept. 21, 2015
Dharma Rain Zen Center started an Indiiegogo campaign http://igg.me/at/PlantingZen/x on Sept. 21, 2015 that allows you to contribute to their restoration work. Your dollars will be matched dollar for dollar. I hope you will help if you can!
May 6, 2015, Portland, OR – updated May 18, 2015
It would be useful to read my Jan 2014 Mycoremediation: Cleaning Soils and Water along the Willamette River! blog in conjunction with this blog.
I was once quite active in the Oregon Mycological Society, but the need to be more focused on my profession of urban planning saw me let my membership lapse. I recently renewed it and, to my delight, I’ve discovered a new wave of young members who share my interest in mycoremediation–using mushrooms to clean soils and water.
One OMS member, Jordan Weiss, recently lead a workshop at the Dharma Rain Zen Center in NE Portland. In the 2.5 years that this Buddhist group has owned this 14 acre former landfill, they have made a remarkable start to its ecological restoration as evidenced by the dried Himalayan blackberry canes lining the ravine that they are now planting in native plants and trees–and in mushrooms.
Jordan gave a bit of a lesson in mycology withan emphasis on white rot fungi because they are such fast soil-builders and because they are particularly effective in breaking down aromatic pollutants (toxic components of petroleum), as well as chlorinated compounds (certain persistent pesticides). A number of species fall into the category of white rot fungi, including three that we dealt with at the workshop: Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) and Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) and King Stropharia (Stropharia rugoso-annualata).
The below ground part of some mushrooms–the mycelia–have been shown to consume chemical toxins such as PAHs and bacteria such as E-coli. Of the eight species of mushroom Paul Stamets team tested in an EPA funded study, “one clearly demonstrated resilience to harsh environmental conditions and a second showed promising characteristics. These species may therefore be considered as technically feasible for stormwater treatment applications. “
The most resilient species referred to in Stamets team’s study is King Stropharia (aka Garden giant). Its mycelia form a thick web that would filter stormwater in the range of 0.07 to 0.10 cm/sec—roughly equivalent to medium grain sand. So, the Stamets team judged it to be an appropriate filter media for meeting EPA specifications for stormwater management. Workshop participants found King Stropharia growing along the west-facing hillside of the ravine at the Zen Center where naturalized spawn on wood chips in a burlap sack was installed two years ago and fruited this spring. After advocating mycoremediation with the City of Portland for over a year, it was great to see some land stewards actually doing it!
The workshop team then moved on to innoculating cottonwood logs with two species of white rot fungus–Turkey Tail and Oyster (but just one species per log). This consisted of drilling some quarter-sized holes to a depth of about 0.7 inch, then scooping some mycelia that had been growing on cardboard into the holes and closing it off with wheat paste and a patch. Jordan said that a best practice is to use inoculated sawdust and/or plug-spawn–but we were making do with what we had.
In his article, “The Petroleum Problem”, Paul Stamets envisions the future of mycoremediation in Mycological Response Teams. These teams would consist of knowledgeable and trained people who would use mycoremediation techniques to recycle and rebuild healthy soil in the area. 
Jordan cautions that “fungi is a powerful tool in the remediators tool kit, but these and other nature-based technologies will not work if frivolously applied.” He encourages us to familiarize ourselves with the ecological role fungi have in their natural environment. I try to teach about such roles every time we see fungi on the Sierra Club outings that I lead.
In the Sttamets’ teams study, the second most successful species found to take up storm water pollutants with some vigor is the Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus sp.). They grow in some abundance in nearby Forest Park–even in the winter with a hint of snow on the ground when only the toughest are out: English ivy, Swordfern and Douglas fir. (Yes, I pulled that piece of invasive English ivy immediately after taking its picture!)
A Portland-based edible mushroom business produces Oyster mycelia inoculated straw as a by-product of its main business. The three recent college graduates who started this business have expressed interest in having their by-product used in mycoremediation. Their straw is already becoming popular with gardeners and farmers and an important source of income for the business.
Along with Jordan Weiss, I am adding Mycoremediation to what PlanGreen offers. I plan to work with Jordan’s Mushrooms and other businesses in the Portland area to offer a full range of mycoremediation services from design and planning to installation and maintenance. We might start with Portland’s NW Industrial District. where students in the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning program at Portland State University are just now completing their project “Getting Green to Work in the NW Industrial District.” We’re lucky that in the Portland area green streets with bioretention facilities, green or eco-roofs, green walls, permeable pavement, etc. can now be considered almost commonplace. This is the green infrastructure the students referred to when I attended their open house in April. Right now, almost none of our built green infrastructure has mushrooms and their mycelia growing in it. My team is proposing to change that. If you have a mycology-based business in the Portland, Oregon area and want to be part of that effort, write me, Mary Vogel, at mary at plangreen dot net.
1.”The Petroleum Problem”. Fungi Perfecti. 3 June 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
It looks good Mary. Here are the changes I would suggest.
-King stropharia naturalized spawn on wood chips in a burlap sack was installed
two years ago and fruited this spring.
-Oyster mushrooms are also a white-rot fungi. They can break down the
same toxins that King Stropharia can.
-Oyster mushrooms become darker when exposed to sunlight, especially
the tan or white species.
-Spawn on sawdust is a better way to inoculate logs(Yes, we drilled a few holes
and stuffed them with mycelium on cardboard, but he better protocol, i.e.
best practice is to use inoculated sawdust and/or plug-spawn.
If you were to add something about fungi is a powerful tool for in the remediators
tool kit, but these and other nature-based technologies will not work if frivolously
applied: the easy-to-follow protocols are simple and can be learned by people of
all abilities in hands-on workshops, in addition to familiarizing ourselves with the
ecological role fungi have in their natural environment.
Once again, this is really good, please fw next version, if you get the chance.
Jordan, Thanks so much! I’ve now incorporated most of your comments into the body of the post. I was surprised to see this comment:
-Oyster mushrooms are also a white-rot fungi. They can break down the
same toxins that King Stropharia can
because I thought I had already incorporated that info. The Stamets team did find that King Stropharia was the MOST resilient species, but I might have mentioned that Oyster were a close second. Your comments made me see that I needed to make that connection more directly.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015, at 10 AM you are invited. . .
to join Dharma Rain Zen Center to celebrate the award of a $200,000 EPA Brownfields Grant to the Northwest Zen Sangha for cleanup at their Siskiyou Square site at NE 85th & Siskiyou.
Following brief remarks by representatives from EPA and DEQ as well as other partners and the Zen Center, everyone is invited to join a volunteer work party led by Jordan Weiss of Jordan’s Mushrooms (http://jordansmushrooms.com) to create fungi-enhanced filter bags and place them in the stormwater swales and channels. Weiss has been working with the Zen Center on mycoremediation (using mushrooms to remove toxins) for the past two years and is beginning to see the fruits of the work of those he has led in work parties. It is hoped that this Wednesday’s work will greatly enhance that progress.
Mycoremediation is the use of white rot fungi and their mycelia to filter pollutants. It 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 the installation of a mycofiltration device is very inexpensive and low-impact, mycoremediation has the potential to be a sustainable option well into the future.
Here is the news media coverage of the June 10th event.:
Daily Journal of Commerce – I can send a pdf of the article because, unless you are a subscriber, the link will not do you much good: http://djcoregon.com/news/2015/06/12/mushrooms-as-stormwater-filters/ . DJC will also be coming back July 1 to do some filming.
KOPB – http://www.opb.org/news/article/mushrooms-help-clean-up-pollution-on-former-landfill-site/
KUOW – http://kuow.org/post/mushrooms-help-clean-pollution-former-landfill-site – actually Earthfix stories are aired on public radio stations throughout the PNW.
Portland Business Journal – unfortunately, despite my best efforts, Wendy missed the most compelling part of the story, the mycoremediation! http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/sbo/2015/06/buddhists-reclaim-a-contaminated-ne-portland-site.html
US EPA Region 10’s Facebook page photos and comments: https://www.facebook.com/eparegion10?fref=ts – scroll down to June 10th.