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Warm season turfgrasses as potential candidates to phytoremediate arsenic pollutants at Obuasi Goldmine in Ghana




Owusu Ansah, Koduah, author
Qian, Yaling, advisor
Koski, Tony, committee member
Pilon-Smits, Elizabeth, committee member

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Ghana, originally known as the Gold Coast prior to March 6, 1957, has generally had a very long history of gold mining dating back over 1000 years. Gold is one of the largest contributors to the economy, including cocoa (Gavin, 2002), accounting for about 38% of total merchandise and 95% of total mineral exports as well as about 80% of all mineral revenue. Arsenic enters the environment from a variety of sources associated with gold mining, including waste soil and rocks, tailings, atmospheric emissions from ore roasting, and bacterially enhanced leaching. The combination of opencast mining by multi-national mining companies and heap leaching generates large quantities of waste soil and rock (overburden) and residual water from ore concentrations (tailings) into various water bodies in and around Obuasi. Arsenic constitutes the major trace element problem in the Obuasi area. Extremely high concentrations of this element have been observed in ponds (2250μg/L (USEPA)) and drinking water (1400μg/L). These high levels are far above recommended United States Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) drinking water guideline of 10μg/L for Arsenic. At least 10% of rural populations rely on Ghana's borehole wells that have Arsenic concentrations exceeding 10μg/L (USEPA). The basic idea that plants can be used for environmental remediation is very old and cannot be traced to any particular source. However, a series of scientific discoveries combined with an interdisciplinary research approaches have allowed the development of this idea into a promising, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly technology (Pilon-Smits, 2005). This paper reviews the physiological characteristics of five selected native turfgrasses and one exotic grass found in Ghana and their ability to phytoremediate arsenic pollutants at Obuasi mines.


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