Phytoremediation Test Project in Altavista, Va., for PCB Removal from Wastewater Pond; with News Media Updates as of June 2015

Background Information Originally Posted October 2011

On October 11, 2011, the town council of Altavista, Va. (Campbell County) approved $2100 for a consultant to assess whether trees could remove PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) that have been in an overflow pond at the town’s wastewater-treatment plant since the 1970s (according to town officials).  Having received estimates of about $4.5 million for digging out the contaminated sediments and either removing them or having them burned, the town hopes to discover some type of remediation alternative that would cost less.  In September, council appointed a committee to investigate potential solutions for removing the PCBs, and the use of plants to remove the materials through their roots–an example of “phytoremediation,” or the use of plants to remove contaminants–is one alternative council will now investigate.  Any plan the town chooses would require approval by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
PCBs change nature of town pond, Altavista Journal, 10/19/11; Council pursues options for PCBs, Altavista Journal, 10/12/11; and Group to check into PCB options, Altavista Journal, 9/20/11

udpate March 2014

On March 11, 2014, Lou Licht, president of the EcoloTree Company (based in North Liberty, Iowa), which is managing the phytoremediation project, reported at to the town council that test tree-planting areas on the site have shown reductions of PCB levels below the levels at which the U.S. EPA requires soil removal.  The Council gave approval for the last of three phases for testing the remediation method: monitoring the process for trees planted along the pond’s banks, to begin in May 2014.  Results from the tests will then be used by the Council to determine what actions to take to decontaminate and close the lagoon permanently.  Source: Small trees are soaking up PCBs in Altavista’s old wastewater pond, Lynchburg News & Advance, 3/12/14.

For more recent developments since September 2014, please see the following news articles (listed from newest to oldest, since 9/15/14):

Altavista assesses PCB removal plans, Lynchburg News & Advance, 6/19/15.

Scientists work on solutions for Altavista’s PCB-polluted pond, WSET-TV Lynchburg, 6/18/15.

EPA to highlight lab, field research at Institute, Danville Register & Bee, 6/9/15.

Town faces PCB hearing, Altavista Journal, 5/19/15

Altavista given a deadline for PCB remediation plan, Lynchburg News & Advance, 12/19/14.

Experimental PCB treatment may come to Altavista, Lynchburg News & Advance, 10/21/14.

Altavista to draft letter in response to DEQ’s request for information on PCB remediation, Lynchburg News & Advance, 9/15/14.

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