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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Establishment of native perennial grasses on superfund sites contaminated with heavy metal in the Eastern United States
Year: 2002
Author(s): Glennon, R., van der Grinten, M.
Source Title: Proceedings of the Third Eastern Native Grass Symposium
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 42-45
Original Publication:  
Abstract: Native perennial grasses have been used to revegetate superfund sites contaminated with heavy metals throughout the eastern United States since those areas have been reclaimed. Most of the sites have contaminated soil removed and the native perennial grasses are being utilized due to their adaptation to the dry, infertile acidic subsoil or fill imported to cover the area. Secondary advantages are low maintenance, wildlife habitat development, and tendency of the stands to allow succession to occur. They have been used to stabilize contaminated soil on site at the Palmerton Superfund site where 2,000 acres of steep mountainside were contaminated with zinc, cadmium, and lead from a smelting operation in east-central Pennsylvania. Researchers from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Agricultural Research Service and Pennsylvania State University collaborated to conduct greenhouse studies and conducted field trials with native and exotic grasses and legumes and sludge and fly ash mixtures to revegetate the area. The results of their work have been used to develop a reclamation plan for the site and revegetate 1,000 acres. Many species were screened in greenhouse trials to narrow the number of treatments to be tested in the field. Several single species and mixtures of species (tall fescue/birdfoot trefoil, perennial ryegrass/flatpea, intermediate wheatgrass, switchgrass, big bluestem were tested, estabished successfully and have persisted. The traditional tall fescue/birdfoot trefoil and perennial ryegrass/flatpea mixtures established the quickest, but formed a solid stand that is not readily colonized by seeds carried by the wind or wildlife. The warm season grasses allowed colonization but were slow to establish. The native cool season intermediate wheatgrass established quickly and also allowed colonization due to its nature as a bunch grass. The sludge:fly ash rations of 1:1 and 2:1 optimized establishment of herbaceous plants.
Publisher: The North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC, October 1-3, 2002. Omnipress, Madison, WI
Editor(s): J. Randall