U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division

Phytoremediation and PhytoForensics: Mother Nature can Detect and Mitigate Pollutants...with Elegance

Sponsored by: U.S. EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation

Archived: Tuesday, October 10, 2017
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Phytoremediation is the field of looking to use plants to mitigate environmental pollutants and human exposures. As plants are efficient, key components in local and global water, carbon and energy cycles, they can influence pollutant transport and availability in many different ways. In this presentation, methods of using plants to prevent human exposure to pollutants will be presented and discussed so share fundamental concepts and case studies of applications. Novel methods of using plants as environmental sensors will also be presented, known as Phytoforensics. As plants interact actively and intimately with the subsurface environment, new analytical and remote sensing methods have been developed to use plants as biosentinels. Using plants in these roles, leads to some unique challenges when looking at typical measures of efficacy for remediation, and the unique aspects of plants also creates new combinations of benefits where we concurrently gain ecosystem services at the same time we are mitigating potential human exposure or environmental damages. Novel integration of plants in urban design can particularly bring multiple, values to our society. Example applications of these techniques in the Superfund program will also be highlighted.

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A photograph of Joel Burken PhDJoel Burken PhD, Missouri S&T ( or 573-341-6547)
Dr. Burken received his PhD from the University of Iowa in 1996, where he conducted some of the initial research on phytoremediation. He has been at Missouri University of Science and Technology since 1997. He currently serves as Chair and Curators' Distinguished Professor of the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department. Dr. Burken has also held temporary positions at: EAWAG in Zurich Switzerland, at the National Environment Research Institute (NERI) in Denmark, and at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand as an Erskine Fellow. Joel's research has focused upon using vegetation low impact and natural treatment systems since 1991. In that time, terms of sustainable-remediation, green infrastructure, and green-remediation have evolved and now promote the same fundamental aspects surrounding water quality and water resource management. His research in phytoremediation of organic contaminants and pioneering work in Phytoforensics have led to over 80 publications, including one article that was highlighted in the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) journal Science and 4 feature or cover articles in top ranked international journals. His work has received numerous accolades, including twice winning the ASCE Rudolf Hering Medal, an NSF Career award, being appointed a Fellow of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP). Dr. Burken currently serves on the US EPA Science Advisory Board. Dr. Burken has received the Faculty Excellence award 7 times at S&T and was appointed as a Distinguished Curators' professor at Missouri S&T in 2015.

A photograph of Kate Kennen RLAKate Kennen RLA, Offshoots/Harvard ( or 617-500-6530)
Having spent her childhood at her family's garden center in central Massachusetts, Kate is well versed in the plants and ecological systems of the Northeast. A registered Landscape Architect with degrees from Cornell University and Harvard's Graduate School of Design, she founded Kennen Landscape Architecture in 2004 and Offshoots, Inc in 2012 to create practices focused on productive planting and ecological planning. Kate's current research and teaching concentrates on planting design and applied phytotechnologies that utilize plants to clean up contaminated sites. Her recent book, PHYTO: Principles and Resources for Site Remediation and Landscape Design (co-authored with Niall Kirkwood) received a national ASLA honor award and was named one of the top 10 new landscape books by The Dirt in 2015. Kate has been honored with numerous awards for her recent and ongoing projects including Cape Cod's Downtown Hyannis Revitalization Project, Plantworks at 725 Main Street, a phytoremediation installation on a former gas station site, and Bouyed Coasts, an environmental art installation project in Barnstable.


A photograph of Michele MahoneyMichele Mahoney, U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division ( or 703-603-9057)
Michele Mahoney is a Soil Scientist working on issues related to remediation and reuse of contaminated sites within EPA's Superfund program. In order to support practitioners, she researches and reports on knowledge related to treatment technologies for mining sites, use of soil amendments for remediation and redevelopment/reuse, ecological revitalization, ecosystem services, phytotechnologies, and urban gardening. Michele develops and delivers training for the world-renown EPA Clean-Up Information Network (, particularly a Mining Webinar Series, and topics related to Superfund Redevelopment, Ecological Revitalization, Ecosystem Services, and Phytotechnologies. She also creates and manages content development for the EcoTools and Mining pages on

Michele has worked with EPA for over 20 years. Prior to her current responsibilities, Michele served the Agency as the lead for food waste composting issues and as an environmental fate and ecological risk assessor for pesticide registration. Michele also has experience as a Contractor for EPA and a Laboratory and Field Researcher.

Michele earned a M.S. in Soil Science from the Washington State University, and a B.S. in Agronomy & Environmental Science from Delaware Valley University.

A photograph of Jean BalentJean Balent, U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division ( or 202-566-0832)
Ms Balent is on the staff of the EPA's Technology Innovation and Field Services Division where she has worked to collect and disseminate hazardous waste remediation and characterization information since 2003. Ms Balent manages the Clean Up Information Network website and actively supports online communication and collaboration resources available to EPA. She formerly worked with the US Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Engineering Division in the Buffalo District. Ms Balent was also a member of the SUNY-Buffalo Groundwater Research Group where she constructed and tested large scale models of groundwater flow. Ms Balent has also conducted research relating to the Great Lakes, environmental remediation, and brownfields re-development. She holds a Bachelor's degree in environmental engineering from SUNY-Buffalo and a Master's degree in Information Technology from AIU.

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If you have a suggested topic or idea for a future CLU-IN internet seminar, please contact:

Jean Balent
Technology Integration and Information Branch

PH: 202-566-0832 | Email:
Michael Adam
Technology Integration and Information Branch

PH: 202-566-0875 | Email: