from :

A Fungus Thats Eats Oil Spills,32068,13102109001_1879838,00.html
“What Stamets has discovered is that the enzymes and acids that mycelium produces to decompose this debris are superb at breaking apart hydrocarbons – the base structure common to many pollutants. So, for instance, when diesel oil-contaminated soil is inoculated with strains of oyster mycelia, the soil loses its toxicity in just eight weeks.”

“Mushrooms eat more than just rotting wood. Give them oil, arsenic or even nerve gas, and they’ll give you back water and carbon dioxide. Mushrooms are nature’s prime decomposers, and they’re very good at what they do. They eat by releasing enzymes capable of breaking down substances from which they gain nutrients. Their usual diet consists of plants and other organic, or carbon-based, organisms. Since many toxins have similar chemical makeup to plants, fungi can break them down as well. These include petroleum products, pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals with estrogen, and even neurotoxins. Once the contaminants are broken down, the mushrooms are safe to eat. Mushrooms can also absorb heavy metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic. A species called oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus, have a particularly high tolerance for areas heavily contaminated with cadmium and mercury. This means oyster mushrooms can grow in high-mercury areas and still decompose other pollutants. Mushrooms that ingest heavy metals are no longer safe to eat, because the toxins remain concentrated in the mushroom instead of being broken down. For this reason, heavy-metal laden mushrooms must be removed after absorption to prevent the metals from reentering the area when the mushrooms die and decompose. Mycoremediation was first attempted in Bellingham in 1998, when Stamets and a team of researchers from Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Sequim, Wash. treated plots in a contaminated truck maintenance yard operated by the Washington State Department of Transportation. After four weeks, the plots not treated with spores remained unchanged, but the spore-rich plot had sprouted a large crop of oyster mushrooms. Over the next five weeks, the mushrooms matured, reproduced and then died. Their life cycle attracted insects, birds and other animals, and life flourished on the once-dead plot. Fungi have a much different structure than plants. Mushrooms are part of a larger organism known as the mycelium. Mycelia are complex webs of hair-like fibers that resemble the neurological pathways in the human brain. Although only one cell wall thick, mycelia are responsible for cycling nutrients through the fungus and its surrounding environment, according to Stamets’ book. Mycelium mats can grow very large and connect entire forests in a nutrient-sharing network. One specimen covered more than 2,400 acres on an Oregon mountaintop; possibly the largest living organism, according to the journal Nature.”

“As reported in Jane’s Defence Weekly, one of Stamets’ strains was found to “completely and efficiently degrade” chemical surrogates of VX and sarin, the potent nerve gases Saddam Hussein loaded into his warheads. “We have a fungal genome that is diverse and present in the old-growth forests,” says Stamets. “Hussein does not. If you look on the fungal genome as being soldier candidates protecting the U.S. as our host defense, not only for the ecosystem but for our population … we should be saving our old-growth forests as a matter of national defense.” It’s been more than 70 years since Alexander Fleming discovered that the mold fungus penicillium was effective against bacteria. And yet, complains Stamets, nobody has paid much attention to the antiviral and antibiotic properties of mushrooms — partly because Americans, unlike Asian cultures, think mushrooms are meant to be eaten, not prescribed. But with the emergence of multiple antibiotic resistance in hospitals, says Stamets, “a new game is afoot. The cognoscenti of the pharmaceuticals are now actively, and some secretly, looking at mushrooms for novel medicines.” Based on a recent study documenting the ability of a mushroom, Polyporus umbellatus, to completely inhibit the parasite that causes malaria, Stamets has come up with a mycofiltration approach to combating the disease. Stamets is currently shopping this idea around to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a front-runner in the effort to provide vaccinations in developing nations.”

Meanwhile, in Newtown Creek
“For over 50 years, the Greenpoint section of northern Brooklyn has been sitting atop a staggering 17 million gallons of spilled oil—almost 50 percent more oil than was spilled in the 1989 wreck of the Exxon Valdez supertanker in Alaska—and almost nothing has been done to clean it up. The early refineries were careless in their operations, and it’s likely that they started spilling almost as soon as they began operating. Unhampered by environmental laws, few refineries had containment systems to catch spills, so what was released could seep into whatever was around to soak it up. “It was a very messy industry,” says Basil Seggos, chief investigator of Riverkeeper, an environmental watchdog organization. The biggest spill of all wasn’t revealed until 12 years after the Brooklyn Refinery shut down. During a helicopter patrol over Newtown Creek in early September of 1978, the Coast Guard noticed an oil slick on the surface of the water near Meeker Avenue, by the Peerless Importers site. An investigation found that the oil that had saturated the soil underneath nearly 55 acres in Greenpoint. The Coast Guard stopped the seep by installing recovery sumps—or basins—to collect the oil, but until 1989, little was done to address what lay beneath the surface. That was the year Exxon Mobil accepted responsibility for the oil under the ground. Anecdotes of people suffering from asthma and other diseases have been circulating in Greenpoint for years. In addition to the vapors potentially reaching people near the water, some of the petroleum in the creek is dissolved in groundwater, which is also leaking out from the aquifer. But no matter how many grout walls or boom systems are installed, stopping the seeps isn’t a cure-all—the leaks won’t cease until they’re traced to the source. For that to happen, though, there first needs to be a comprehensive removal of what’s inside the aquifer—not just of oil floating freely on the water table, but of the oil stuck to the sandy soil and gravel. The pumping approach could take up to 20 years.”

Categories: Spectre Group Reports | Tags: | 2 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.


  1. Anyone interested in this should definitely read Stamets’ book Mycelium Running (link up top). It is also worth looking in to Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton & the Permaculture movement. All very cutting edge & incredibly relevant to today’s world.

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