At a former refinery location in Wood River, Illinois, BP has launched one of the largest phytoremediation project it has ever built at any of its industrial cleanup sites. Phytoremediation refers to environmental cleanup technologies that use plants to naturally clean up chemical compounds and petroleum impacts in soils and groundwater.
After more than a decade of research and testing, both in the lab and in the field, BP has planted 3,500 trees in five groves on a 24-acre closed disposal facility. These specially selected species of trees, including river birches, swamp oaks, bald cypresses, willows and poplars, are designed to draw out water from the site.
The riverfront parcel was filled with water during the Great Flood of 1993. Because of the bathtub-like construction of the disposal facility, high levels of water have remained in the facility. The willows and poplars were selected in part because they draw more water through their roots and will help bring down water levels to minimize any risk of impacted water escaping. In addition, a benefit of this process is that the trees will help to break down residual petroleum and other chemical compounds from groundwater at the site.
In 2009, BP planted thousands of trees on a former refinery disposal site on the riverfront to help de-water an area flooded in 1993 and expedite the breakdown of the remaining chemical compounds in the soil and groundwater. Here we see Operations Project Manager Thomas Tunnicliff and BP technical specialist Dr. David Tsao examining a newly planted tree in 2009.
As can be seen in this photo, the trees have grown both in size and in their impact.