The low-tech soil cleanup: mushrooms, man

While a oil tanker cracking up off a coast somewhere always gets the big headlines, little oil spills all over the country cause the biggest headaches. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are about 200,000 abandoned gas stations across the country, keeping valuable street corners from being used by Starbucks. The real problem is the petroleum products themselves — occasionally seeping into soil surrounding in-ground storage tanks — which break down very, very slowly, usually winding up in someone's water supply first. Petroleum-soaked earth can't support plant life, just lawsuits.

The Remediators, based in Olympia, WA, wants to use the magic of mushrooms to make those corners latte-friendly again. First the Remediator team adds "enriched biomass" to the impacted soil, so the fungi have some oxygen and nutrients to snack on when it gets introduced. Then come the spores, and as the picture shows, the mushroom colony goes gangbusters in a few days. The mycelial enzymes created by the mushrooms break down the organic petroleum contaminants. Ideally, in four to six months, you've got clean dirt — and some sellable real estate.

Via Remediators