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Natural Awakenings, Broward County, Florida

Indigenous Efforts Use Hemp to Remove Forever Chemicals From Superfund Site

Hand holding leaf off hemp plant

The former Loring Air Force Base, in Limestone, Maine, on the Canadian border, closed in 2007, is now owned by the Aroostook Band of Micmacs. The superfund site is so polluted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave it a waiver, deeming it technically impractical to clean, being loaded with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), cancer-causing compounds commonly known as “forever chemicals". PFAS tend to bioaccumulate, building up in soil, water, animals and humans; they can persist for hundreds or thousands of years and have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, liver damage and suppressed immunity.

In the spring of 2019, the Micmac Nation, nonprofit Upland Grassroots and their research partners began an experiment. Hemp is a good candidate for phytoremediation because it grows fast across much of the country. Its roots are deep and profuse to better absorb pollutants from the soil. By 2020, researchers discovered that the hemp plants were successfully sucking PFAS out of the contaminated soil via phytoremediation and hope that their example may help farmers that have discovered their soil is tainted. Micmac Chief Edward Peter-Paul says, “Anything we can do to contribute to making the environment better, we want to be a part of.”

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