SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

June 10, 2014

Scientists explore using trees to clean pollution

FREEPORT, Texas — Before Houston and its suburbs were built, a dense forest naturally purified the coastal air along a stretch of the Texas Gulf Coast that grew thick with pecan, ash, live oak and hackberry trees.

It was the kind of pristine woodland that was mostly wiped out by settlers in their rush to clear land and build communities. Now one of the nation’s largest chemical companies and one of its oldest conservation groups have forged an unlikely partnership that seeks to recreate some of that forest to curb pollution.

The plan drafted by Dow Chemical and the Nature Conservancy is only in its infancy and faces many hurdles. But it envisions a day when expensive machines used to capture industrial pollutants might be at least partially replaced by restoring some of the groves of native trees that once filled the land.

“It looks very promising at the early stage of the research,” said Mark Weick, director of sustainability programs for Dow. “But for this to become something that is an emission control, everyone needs to know it works.”

Many plants, and especially trees, capture pollution naturally when it hits their leaves. Trees with the biggest leaves and the widest canopies capture the most pollutants, especially nitrogen oxide, a common byproduct of combustion that can irritate lungs and contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone. The reforestation proposal imagines emissions from Dow’s largest North American factory drifting downwind into the trees near Freeport, Texas.

Dow and the Nature Conservancy began a six-year, $10 million collaboration in 2011, when they came together to look at ways natural resources could be used to save the company money.

After reading an obscure notation by the federal Environmental Protection Agency that suggested reforestation could improve air quality, the two groups decided to research how the idea might work and whether it could be cost-effective.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Analysts: Time not on Market Basket workers’ side

    Amid the chaos of a rally including as many as 10,000 protesters in Tewksbury last Friday and countless other rallies large and small last week at Market Baskets from Gloucester to New Hampshire and Maine, signs and shouts delivered a loud and clear call for a boycott of the supermarket.
     

    July 28, 2014

  • Police Peabody Friday A gray Mongoose bike valued at $125 was reported missing from Glenway Avenue, as logged at 5:06 p.m. Wade R. Durkee, 47, 261 Newbury St., Peabody, was arrested, as logged at 6:12 p.m., on Crane Brook Way on a charge of receiving stolen

    July 28, 2014

  • Arthur v. Arthur

    July 27, 2014

  • Police: Excessive speed may have been factor in Route 1 crash in Peabody

    Saturday morning at approximately 6 a.m., troopers from the Massachusetts State Police Danvers Barracks responded to a three vehicle crash on Route 1 north in the vicinity of Route 114 in Peabody.

    July 26, 2014

  • Driscoll Gordon College flap nets local LGBT group $12K

    SALEM -- The conservative uproar over Mayor Kim Driscoll's decision to terminate Gordon College's contract to operate Old Town Hall has turned into a cash cow for a local group supporting gay and lesbian youths.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo 4 Stories