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The Use of Ion-Accumulating Halophytes for the Phytoremediation of Saline and Selenium Impacted Soil and Water in Cold-Arid Climates

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: N/A
Agency Tracking Number: 2010-02109
Amount: $391,369.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 8.4
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: N/A
Award Year: 2010
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): N/A
Award End Date (Contract End Date): N/A
Small Business Information
Belgrade, MT 59714
United States
DUNS: 003270137
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Laura Smith
 (406) 388-1116
Business Contact
 Laura Smith
Title: President
Phone: (406) 388-1116
Research Institution

The Bureau of Land Management and other agencies have called the rapid expansion of energy exploration on the Rocky Mountain Front, the single largest environmental challenge facing the western U.S. The Powder River Basin (PRB) of Wyoming and Montana is an area of major development for coal bed methane gas (CBM) exploration. CBM resides in underground coal seams, trapped by large aquifers of water which contain elevated levels of salts and sodium ions. In order to harness CBM, these saline-sodic "discharge" waters must be pumped to the surface. Discharge waters are already causing degradation of soil, water, and air quality, loss of drinking water reserves, increased soil erosion, reduction in land values and agricultural productivity, degradation of wetlands, native range habitat and dependent species, risks to human and animal health, as well as impacting rural community life. In 2008, more than 900 million barrels of discharge were pumped to the surface in the PRB with 120,000 new wells expected to come on line in the next 20 years. Each well can produce as much as 20 tons of salt being applied to the surface, impacting thousands of acres of land. The EPA has called for the development of phytoremediation (plant-based) strategies to counteract and ameliorate the negative effects of discharge water on soil and water resulting from CBM exploration in cold-arid environments. No such efforts have currently been developed. In Phase I research, Westscape Nursery demonstrated that their selected, adapted halophytes (highly salt-tolerant plants) have the ability to remove sodium and other toxic elements (including selenium) from impacted soil and water, as well as evaporate (via transpiration) large volumes of salinated water. In Phase II, Westscape will further develop advanced breeding lines and clonal material with enhanced abilities for these traits. These plants will be integrated as part of a pre-vegetated mat system which can be readily deployed for in situ soil and water remediation on CBM and other similarly impacted sites. The (erosion control-like) mats will also contain proprietary formulations of fertilizer, growth, and other biotic factors for enhanced establishment and performance of the mats. Westscape anticipates that at the end of Phase II, it will have an innovative, market-ready, phytoremedial technology that is environmentally friendly, easy to use, and far less expensive to implement than current mechanical solutions currently being employed. The proposed technology is widely applicable across the region. Exploration companies are being strongly encouraged to take more pro-active measures at reducing the deleterious effects of CBM development; the BLM and other agencies manage expansive tracts of impacted lands in the West; private land owners and agricultural operations could also benefit from this technology. In 2010, Westscape will implement a field-scale demonstration of this technology in a contract with the US Fish & Wildlife Service for reclamation of saline and selenium impacted land at the Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge in central Montana.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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