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VeruTEK's Got the Green Nano-Clean for Toxic Dumps

VeruTEK\'s patented plant extracts can dissolve and oxidize toxic substances.Cleaning up a toxic dump the conventional way is a messy business, and VeruTEK Technologies, Inc. is one company that offers a more sustainable path to remediation.  Instead of excavating and trucking the contaminated soil to landfills, Connecticut-based VeruTEK has developed plant extracts, nanometals produced from plant extracts, and other natural substances that dissolve and oxidize contaminants in place.

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Last summer VeruTEK announced the latest in a string of successful remediation projects.  The site was contaminated with up to an inch of toxic chemicals such as volatile organic compounds and petroleum hydrocarbons.  Three months after completion of the project, the contamination was reduced to non-detectable limits.  With an estimated 294,000 more toxic sites in the U.S. waiting for remediation, alterna-clean companies like VeruTEK have their work cut out for them.

Contaminated Site Remediation – Then

Conventional hazardous waste cleanup typically involves a large carbon footprint, to relocate or sequester contaminated soil.  In many cases contaminated soil is scraped off or excavated and trucked to landfills, with little if any actual decontamination involved.  The cleanup of Tennessee’s disastrous coal ash spill is one example; the stuff is being relocated to Georgia and Alabama.  Another conventional method involves capping off the surface of the landfill, leaving toxic chemicals to leach into groundwater.  Though in some cases leachate can be collected and disposed, again the solution is a mechanical one and does not involve a chemical or biological transformation of the toxic substances.

Contaminated Site Remediation – Now

Phytoremediation – the use of plants to absorb and chemically process contaminants including metals – has been growing in use for a number of years.  The use of super-microbes and even chicken manure are two other promising solutions that combine a low carbon footprint with an actual transformation of toxic substances into harmless compounds.  VeruTEK’s contribution is a family of proprietary green Coelution Technologies including Surfactant-Enhanced In Situ Chemical Oxidation, which uses plant extracts and oxidants to break down contaminants (elution refers to the controlled separation of chemicals emerging from a mixture, as in a chromatograph).  The process can be tailored for soil, groundwater, and gas on each site and it provides a low-impact means of addressing contaminated soil that would be difficult if not impossible to excavate, such as the ground under a building that one wishes to preserve.

VeruTEK launched its sustainable nanotech solutions in 2007 when it acquired Streamscape Minerals, and it’s been busy ever since.  The process works on petroleum, chlorinated solvents, pesticides, herbicides, PCB’s, dioxin, and many other toxic chemicals.  Along with other sustainable decontamination methods, VeruTEK’s approach opens up new possibilities for safely reclaiming brownfields, especially in urban areas with untapped potential for smart growth and transit village development.  It may also prove useful in the reclaimation of contaminated land for growing non-food biofuel crops, helping to relieve pressure on food croplands and forested areas.

Image: mugley on flickr.com.

 
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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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