Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Unit 4 Lab Project

Patrick Callaway
Lab Project Unit 4


The purpose of this lab project is to educate myself and others further on what superfund sites are and how progress is made within them. 

Part 1:

1. What does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do? 

The EPA’s mission and obligation is to create laws and regulations that protect our environmental health, and ultimately protect our individual health as a nation here in the United States of America. 

2. Why was the EPA established?  

The EPA was established in the 1970s due to a growing concern with environmental pollution. Standards needed to be set to monitor and maintain a healthy environment for U.S. citizens. 

3. What is a superfund site? 

The United States EPA has a national priority list. When a hazardous waste site is scored and deemed as a possible health hazard it is added to this list and then considered a superfund site. It is then the EPA’s priority to make sure the site is cleaned to standards which will no longer deem it as having a negative affect on us and our environment. These sites began in 1980 as a way to clean up abandoned waste sites. 

Part 2:
Superfund Sites

A. Navajo Nation Uranium Contamination accessed 5/9/12

The Navajo Nation is located over three states in the four corners areas. The unique geologic traits of these lands make them high in Uranium, which was used for weaponry and with atomic power in the 1940s. Mines were used in extracting this resource beginning in the 1940s. This uranium is high in radioactivity and has since infected the land and deemed it hazardous; with radiation even seeping into drinking water of the area. The Indian Health Service with the Navajo Nation were given a 5 year plan to clean up the sites beginning in October of 2007. Major progress has been made since the beginning of the EPA enforced clean-up date. No phytostabilization was used. Below is a photo displaying the clean up process and tearing down of a home on the Navajo land. accessed 5/9/12

B. 914th Airlift Wing accessed 5/9/12

The 914th Airlift Wing is located just 15 miles north of Buffalo, New York; and east of Niagara Falls. Since the 1940s it has been used as a combat base to train soldiers. Due to spills, waste disposal practices, etc. there is a variety of soil contaminants in the area. Benzene, trichloroethene and vinyl chloride have been noted as the hazardous components created by and surrounding the base. As of 2001, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is obligated to clean the hazardous material. Great progress has been made. No phytostabilization was used. 

C. Ashton Texaco Oil Release accessed 5/9/12

A Texaco gas station in Ashton Idaho has been tagged as the source of vast gasoline leaking. It was believed that a 12,000 gallon tank was leaking, along with pumps. As it turns out, the tank is not leaking, however, traces of gasoline have been found surrounding the site in large quantities. The texaco has since been shut down and EPA emergency response units have been called to assess the situation. No phytostabilization was used. accessed 5/9/12

Part 3
Iron King Mine Tailings: accessed 5/9/12

5. How were the specific plant species chosen for phytostabilization of IKMHSSS? 

The plant species that were chosen for phytostabilization of IKMHSSS were specifically chosen because they accumulate metals in the root zone. This keeps them from entering the food chain by preventing extraction into above ground bio mass. They were also chosen based on USDA plant habitats and visual examination of the Dewey/Humbolt area. 

6. Why would composting increase the pH of the soil? 

Composting increases the pH of soil because it involves new material into the soil, which in turn raises the acidity level. 

7. Interpret the tables in the O’Sullivan Field Study Paper. 

a. Refer to figure 1 and observe the shaded bars. Give the grams dry weight for each species with 
10% compost applied. Which species grew more with less compost? 

Buffalo Grass: 3.9
Mesquite: 0.9
Quailbush: 1.1
Catclaw Acacia: 0.3
Mountain Mahogony: 0.4
Arizona Fescue: 0.2

Based on the above grams dry weight, the Buffalo Grass clearly grew the most with less compost. 

b. Refer to figure 3. What was the bacterial count for the planted control at time zero (at the 

The bacterial count for the planted control at time zero was just under 10^3 (CFU G^1 Dry tailings)

c. Also figure 3. What was the average bacterial count for the planted treatment area on Day 60 
with 15% compost? 

The average bacterial count for the planted treatment area on day 60 with 15% compost was roughly 10^8.


Superfund sites are incredibly important in keeping our environment safe. There are far more than I had realized, and it is imperative the these sites make great progress in keeping ourselves and our environment healthy. I personally realized the importance of environmental health and it's link to hazardous waste through this project.

Works Cited: accessed 5/9/12

Cunningham, William P. (2011). Environmental Science: Inquiry and Applications. New York, NY.   Mcgraw: Hill. 

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