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2001 flood left legacy of contamination (3)

By  Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)

15:26, February 02, 2012

"The income was not very handsome, but it gives me hope that my land can be fertile soon," Tan said. "And as soon as my land recovers enough to bring in reasonable earnings, I'll marry."

Scientists worked for years to develop a method of using vegetation to clean polluted soil. Since the 1990s, Chen and his colleagues visited thousands of deserted mines looking for a plant that could recycle the pollutants.

"The most difficult part was to distinguish a plant that 'eats' heavy metals from those plants that are merely immune to them," Chen said.

Scientists tried vast numbers of plants, which were brought to the lab by train.

"While other people lined up to buy train tickets for themselves, I often bought them for me and my plants," Chen said.

Despite the proven benefits, the cleansing method has potential hazards.

"Burning the plants produces smoke. If the method is promoted nationwide, there will be a lot of smoke," said Sun Honglie, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Additional research should be done to ensure a safe means of disposing of the fern," Sun said.

Similar experiments have been conducted since 2007 at a polluted 6.7-hectare site in Gejiu, Yunnan province. The soil there is already clean enough to cultivate sugar cane that meets the national safety standards.

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