Lexie Gropper Amisacho, Ecuador Lexie Gropper is the Program Director of Amisacho, an organization that supports local communities in the Northern Amazon of Ecuador through the testing and creation of bioremediation installations to mitigate oil spill contamination. Amisacho also provides edible and medicinal mushroom cultivation and training.
For decades, the Sucumbíos region of Ecuador has been impacted with extensive oil contamination due to the dumping and spilling of over 18.5 million gallons of oil by Chevron-Texaco and other oil companies. This toxic legacy contaminates the soils and waters of the area, causing elevated risk of cancer, birth defects and miscarriages among the indigenous peoples and small farmers of the area.
Through the development of a jungle cultivation laboratory in Amisacho, Gropper has been experimenting with developing mycoremediation protocols applicable to the local ecology. She is working to clone the petrophillic fungi present in the 50+ year old oil sludge pits, figure out if they can degrade hydrocarbons, and determine how to best expand and apply them to remediate the contaminated soil.
Amisacho’s primary partner in the region is the Unión de los Afectados por el Texaco / Union of People Affected by Chevron-Texaco (UDAPT). Together, they are working to research and implement regenerative, ecologically-sound solutions to address the extensive damage from petroleum contamination of their traditional lands and waters.
Amisacho has several remediation projects in the works. One is a large bioremediation pilot project that will use windrow composting and inoculations with either native bacteria, native fungi, or a special petrophillic blend of bacteria to break down contaminated oil sludge.
Gropper is also working with a network of local permaculture practitioners to explore different preventative phytoremediation and mycoremediation installations to intercept contaminated runoff from the oil pits from moving on to their land. Amisacho is also preparing to offer handson bioremediation trainings for the community, to embed the skills locally.
“We offer courses on mushroom production for food, medicine and soil regeneration, as well as organic compost and biochar. We also make mycomedicinals which is important in a region that has one of the highest rates of cancer in South America. We are remediating the soil while finding healing livelihoods. We need to integrate human health, ecological health, culture revitalization and economic justice. That is permaculture – it all has to come together,” states Gropper.
Nance Klehm Social Ecologies, Chicago Nance Klehm has been an ecological systems designer, landscaper, horticultural consultant and permacultural grower for more than two decades. Working primarily with microbial and phytoremediation on urban sites, Klehm takes the art of composting, inoculating sites with beneficial bacteria and fungi, and regenerating soil to another level.
Her most recent project, Public Margins, is situated on two different contaminated sites, one in Chicago and the other in Wilmington, North Carolina. The project explores the functions of spontaneous vegetation on these disturbed sites, with the idea that you cannot solve the problem without understanding the dynamics already at play. Klehm started collecting and testing soils for qualitative character and areas of hot spots of contamination, as well as chemically testing the tissues of the associated plant species in 2018. She also conducted numerous surveys of the different species on both sites, observing their abilities to adapt and handle the contamination present. All of this valuable data will inform the bioremediation interventions that will take place in 2020. “Having a complex understanding of the site over many years, before we do any intervention, is very important. I am not interested in jumping in with our hero capes, I am interested in understanding the pathways to health and how we enhance them on these sites,” she emphasized.
Klehm is also the author of The Ground Rules: A Manual to Reconnect Soil and Soul. It is a guide to community composting and DIY soil remediation. She is currently working on two more publications. The first, Dirt Work: Recreating Coherence in Urban Soil (2019), dives deeper in microbial remediation. Another publication coming out in 2020 will focus on phytoremediation. The manual and upcoming publications can be found on Klehm’s website: www.socialecologies.net
© Luis Muñoz
© Yara Herrate issue 100 summer 2019