CONTACT: PATT CAIN
Assistant Vice President
Corporate and Foundation Relations
UI Foundation News
500 Levitt Center for University Advancement
Iowa City IA 52242
Release: Sept. 27, 1999
Unocal gift funds UI research on use of vegetation
to clean chemical spills
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A gift of $50,000 to the University
of Iowa Foundation from the Unocal Corporation's Asset Management Group will
fund research on phytoremediation, which uses the root systems of plants and
trees to naturally remove hydrocarbon contamination from soil and groundwater.
The gift will assist UI researchers Lon Drake of the
department of geosciences in the College of Liberal Arts, and Jerald Schnoor
of the College of Engineering's department of civil and environmental engineering,
who have pioneered the use of plant life for environmental cleanups since
1990. Professors Drake and Schnoor also are investigating the potential of
this technique to treat heavy metal and radioactive sites and will use a portion
of the gift to fund research in this area.
"Research performed at the University of Iowa in the
area of phytoremediation has been applied at a number of our sites throughout
the U.S., including Alaska," said Todd Ririe, Unocal's manager for environmental
technology services. "The advantages of phytoremediation, and the subsequent
acceptance by regulators of this environmentally friendly technology, is largely
due to the expertise of University of Iowa researchers. The positive results
that we have gained attest to the fact that sound research can lead to benefits
for both the public and for corporations such as Unocal, and we're pleased
to be able to support the UI's ongoing efforts in this important area of study."
Under the direction of the two scientists, Unocal
has implemented phytoremediation projects in Alaskan oil field wetlands and
the use of hybrid poplar trees to clean up former refinery sites in Ohio and
West Virginia. The company has undertaken similar projects utilizing willow
trees at a former oil field site in California and is currently seeking regulatory
approval to apply the technology at other sites in the U.S.
"We are very pleased to have worked with Unocal at
several locations where phytoremediation looks so promising," said Schnoor.
"This gift will further our research into understanding the exact role that
plants can play in degrading waste chemicals and into identifying plant enzymes
and exudates which stimulate these transformations."
Under certain conditions, phytoremediation can replace
the more traditional and typically expensive mechanical technologies, which
are often invasive and harmful to habitats. Phytoremediation has proven to
be a clean, quiet, economical, and aesthetically pleasing means of removing
hydrocarbons and other contaminants including nitrates, pesticides, and landfill
Unocal, headquartered in Brea, Calif., is a leading
global oil and gas exploration and production company with significant pipeline
and power plant development projects worldwide. The Asset Management Group
is responsible for the management and disposition of surplus company real
The University of Iowa Foundation is the preferred
channel of support for private contributions to all areas of the University
of Iowa. Foundation staff work with alumni and friends to provide resources
for research, scholarships, professorships, building renovations, equipment,
technology, and other forms of support for the UI.