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Case Studies

Addressing Complex Groundwater Contamination with a Cut–Off Trench and Phytoremediation

January 12, 2022
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The owners of a manufacturing plant approached EESI with a request: to develop a sustainable solution for a complex contaminated groundwater issue affecting their operation. EESI accepted the request and embarked on a mission to deploy innovative phytoremediation technologies that would not only address the issue but also create a better future for the plant and its surrounding environment.


In order to address the complex contaminated groundwater issue present, EESI applied innovative phytoremediation technologies, which helped reduce the amount of water that had to be treated.

What is Phytoremediation?

Phytoremediation is the use of plants to partially or substantially remediate selected contaminants in contaminated soil, sludge, sediment, ground water, surface water, and waste water. It utilises a variety of plant biological processes and the physical characteristics of plants to aid in site remediation.Phytoremediation has also been called green remediation, botano-remediation, agroremediation, and vegetative remediation. Phytoremediation is a continuum of processes, with the different processes occurring to differing degrees for different conditions, media, contaminants, and plants. A variety of terms have been used in the literature to refer to these various processes.

The EESI team implemented a bespoke phytoremediation program, which included the following:

  1. Construction of an attenuation and adsorption trench (AAT) to create a reactive barrier to treat future impacted groundwater
  2. Enhanced monitored natural attenuation (eMNA) of impacted groundwater.

Impacted groundwater was treated using eMNA utilising the existing groundwater well network, with the AAT constructed to provide a “curtain” that would intercept and prevent further mitigation.

To reduce interaction between the groundwater and the contamination source, the team had to lower the groundwater level. This was achieved by planting and cultivating sterile poplars and high drinking vetiver grass.


The use of innovative phytoremediation technologies enabled a sustainable remedial solution that achieved site cleanup criteria, allowing for the reuse of treated soils onsite without the need for an engineered cover system.

This saved the client significant costs associated with offsite disposal to landfill. Throughout the remediation process, the manufacturing facility was able to operate smoothly, which was essential for the client.

EESI’s creative and innovative approach to remediation using phytoremediation technology resulted in an optimal outcome for the client, resolving the complex contaminated groundwater issue in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.

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