Marsh Plants-Derived Biochar for Synergistic Decontamination of Dioxins, PCBs, and Mercury in Passaic River


Scientific Investigators

PI: Dr. Mengyan Li

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science. NJIT


Co-PI: Dr Francisco Artigas

Director, Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute


This proposed work is motivated by the recent remediation initiative of US EPA at the lower eight miles of the Passaic River to improve the water quality and restore the water habitat. This cleanup project involves dredging extensive amount of contaminated sediments followed by engineered capping. To enhance the capping performance, we propose to use biochar as a reactive additive to facilitate the removal of the commingled contamination of dioxins, PCBs, and mercury, as well as stimulate the intrinsic microbial dehalogenation processes. At the end of this project, we will synthesize biochars of different surface and chemical properties using two pyrolysis temperatures and two local feedstock materials (i.e., smooth cordgrass [Spartina alterniflora] and common reeds [Phragmites australis]). We will also gain significant insight into their sorption capacity and mechanisms on the target contaminants in microcosms prepared with water and sediment samples collected from the Lower Passaic River. Treatments with sand or commercial activated carbon as the capping materials will be employed for comparison. Shifting of indigenous microbial communities and their biodegradation activities will be uncovered using the next-generation sequencing technique and metagenomics analysis. The results of this proposed work will enable determination of the fitness of biochar as the capping additives for Lower Passaic River and advance current in situ remediation synergy to mitigate mixed contamination. As the capping materials are produced using local marsh plants, this study represents an innovative and green technique to transform local natural resources to reactive materials for solving local contamination issues.