Assessing the Social Acceptability of Endophyte-Assisted Phytoremediation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons: A Case Study at Gas Works Park
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Gas Works Park is a former gas production site that has been converted to a public park. Some of the contaminants have been remediated, however much of the soil is still contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are toxic pollutants that have been shown to have numerous negative health effects. The primary form of remediation at Gas Works Park has been capping, which is usually considered a temporary remediation strategy since it does not remove contaminants from the site but simply covers them, and this requires repeated re-capping efforts. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to naturally remove contaminants from soil, sediment, and water. Endophytes can be added to plants to help improve phytoremediation capabilities and decrease phytotoxicity. Endophyte-assisted phytoremediation using willow shrubs is an alternative remediation strategy that could greatly improve soil quality and permanently reduce contaminant levels in the soil. The goal of the present study was to explore the social acceptability of utilizing phytoremediation strategies at Gas Works Park. Focus groups and surveys were used to explore public perceptions of the park and of using phytoremediation to clean up existing contamination. Focus group conversations revealed an overall positive attitude toward phytoremediation at the park, and participants introduced ideas for improving phytoremediation acceptability and recommended locations for planting. Data from focus group analysis was subsequently used to inform the development of surveys that were administered to a larger segment of the population of park users. Surveys were used to examine the relationship between phytoremediation acceptability and risk, values, and concern. The relationship between demographic variables and social acceptability was also assessed. Focus group and survey findings indicated a high level of social acceptability of phytoremediation at Gas Works Park. Additionally, ecocentrism and concern were shown to be significant predictors of phytoremediation acceptability. Risk and anthropocentrism were not significant predictors of acceptability. Results and implications are discussed, and suggestions are made for future research and potential remediation actions at Gas Works Park.
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