© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Connecticut scientists use hemp to start cleaning up PFAS on tribal lands in Maine

Patrick Skahill
Connecticut Public Radio

Scientists from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station are helping the indigenous Miꞌkmaq people in Maine cleanup toxic PFAS chemicals on tribal land near a former U.S. Air Force base.

They are using hemp plants to decontaminate 600 polluted acres of land the tribe reclaimed in 2009, when the U.S. government turned over the former Loring Air Force Base. These chemicals are common in lubricants in defense manufacturing and in firefighting foam that were banned for use at airports across the country.

Sara Nason is in the laboratory carrying out testing on the Hemp-PFAS project.
Courtesy Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
Sara Nason is in the laboratory carrying out testing on the Hemp-PFAS project.

Sara Nason, a biochemist at the experiment station, said the process is called phytoremediation.

“The plants, as they grow, will either produce chemicals and bacteria in their roots that will help to degrade the chemicals over time, or that the chemicals will get taken up into plants with all the nutrients and water the plants take up. And then if you harvest the plants, you’re removing the contaminants from the site,” she said.

Nason said hemp grows fast and consumes a lot of the contaminated groundwater. She said the plants have had a positive effect in reducing the amount of PFAS at the test site so far.

Further research is needed to determine if the contaminated hemp plants can still be used safely for other industrial purposes or whether they will have to be destroyed because of the PFAS they contain.

“What we want to do in the future is to take larger plants to then separate out the different plants and the buds and the seeds and the stem fibers and then measure to see where the contaminants end up specifically in the plant, and which parts might be able to be used safely,” Nason said.

Copyright 2022 WSHU. To see more, visit WSHU.

Brian Scott-Smith

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content