Here’s some shots from the “Phytoremediation and Trash Island” workshop last weekend.  There was a great turnout, and we actually had more people sign up then we could fit, so sorry to those of you we couldn’t squeeze in.  Much more to come we promise.

After an hour presentation on phytoremediation we got  to build a ‘floating trash island’ and plant it with wetland plants. We used three different plants on this go around; Spartina (cordgrass), Typha (cattails), and Phragmites. The Spartina and Typha are native plants to the Gowanus, and were donated by GreenBelt Native Plant Center in Staten Island. It is debated wether or not Phragmites is considered a native plant, but we used it because a) it already grows along the Gowanus and has proven it is hardy enough to survive the challenge and b) it is known for its ability to pull toxins from water and is commonly used in phytoremediation projects.

And then we took the island for a tour of its new home!

So far everything looks good. The tops of the phragmites died back (as expected) but its rhizomes are already starting to push up some new shoots. All other plants look good. They’ve even gotten their fist dose of fertilizer (aka sewage) with the rain the other day. The island wont’ really go into full effect until next spring though.

For us, the trash island is a way of experimenting with different plants, growing mediums and planting techniques, to see what does and does not work. We’ll then take what we learn from observing this first trash island and apply it to the plantings we do on the floating wetland that will surround the boat.  More to come on that in the next week.

While not presented as a ‘cure’ for the Gowanus, phytoremediation and floating wetlands are a great way of creating micro habitats, recycling nutrients/waste, pulling toxins from water, and bringing attention and a sense of aesthetics to environmentally disturbed waters.

Here’s a link to a project that inspired the floating wetland (they call it a ‘canal restorer’) that will surround the boat. Its the same concepts that the trash island is based on. This project took place on a very polluted canal in China.