Phytoremediation of Urban Brownfields:
A Case for Industrial Hemp
By: Jeff Lemon Thursday, June 21, 2012
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A Case for Industrial Hemp?
There are a number of reasons why we should care about brownfields. From encouraging urban sprawl through the ‘development’ of greenfields to their environmental impacts on soil, air and ground water, these properties are a drain upon the urban environment. Redevelopment of brownfields are complicated by the potential contamination of hazardous waste, heavy metals and pollution that has been left behind in the soil. Although this land can be used once the soil has been cleaned, landowners are not financially incentivized to do so and inevitably ‘sit’ on these properties due to the current tax policies. The last decade has spawned a number of methods of remediating these potentially contaminated properties. One approach that has been gaining a lot of press of late, is phytoremediation. This approach to brownfield remediation works in favour for all the stakeholders involved. For the landowner, bioremediation not only offers a cheap solution to the decontamination of their land, but it also allows them to continue to utilize current tax incentives by creating a ‘green space’. For the urban farmer, phytoremediation gives the urban farmer access to valuable land, while allowing for the potential cultivation of certain cash crops. With the number of brownfields in Metro Vancouver growing, it is imperative to understand how increasing awareness and responsible redevelopment can transform environmentally damaged properties into productive lands, which can result in environmental, economic and social community benefits.
Purpose of Research
The purpose of this report is to examine the benefits of using industrial hemp as a potential cash crop in the practices of phytoremediation for the reclamation of Vancouver’s urban brownfields. Through discussions with government and industry professionals, and academic analysis of brownfield, phytoremediation and industrial hemp literature, this report offers an analysis for urban phytoremedial brownfield recovery and makes a solid case for the use of industrial hemp throughout this process.
“Left as they are, brownfields can harm local economies and pose threats to human health and environmental quality. Redeveloped and returned to productive use, they can generate significant economic, environmental, and social benefits.” Harvey L. Mead Chair, National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
Definied by Canada's National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), as “abandoned, idle or underutilized commercial or industrial properties where past actions have caused known or suspected environmental contamination (ie. hazardous waste, heavy metals, pollution and/or toxic materials), but where there is an active potential for redevelopment”1; brownfields are a legacy of Canadian industrialization. Usually located in or near established communities close to city-centres, urban brownfields include “decommissioned refineries, former railway yards, old waterfronts and riverbanks, crumbling warehouses, abandoned gas stations, former drycleaners and other commercial properties where toxic substances may have been used or stored”2 With the number of brownfields growing across Canada, it is now estimated that British Columbia has between 4,000 and 6,000 brownfield sites.3 These underused and derelict properties have the potential of causing significant environmental, economic
and social impacts on both the community, as well as the local municipality if reclaimed:
Ø Increases population density; reducing urban sprawl and development of ‘greenfields’ Ø Improvements in environmental quality (soil, air and ground water) Ø Protection of groundwater resources, wetlands and natural wildlife habitats
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