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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ:

ADEQ Considers Plan to Clean up Yuma Groundwater Cyanide Plume

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Map of the Plume on 20th and Factor

How do you clean up cyanide contamination in Yuma groundwater? Molasses and vegetable oil might be the key.  For the Arizona Science Desk, Maya Springhawk Robnett reports.

Houston Photo Product, Inc., a film processing operation on 20th Street and Factor in Yuma, discharged wastewater into the ground from 1966 to 1995.  This resulted in a groundwater “plume” containing tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and cyanide compounds—all of which are known to cause cancer.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has been actively cleaning up the site since 2002.  The agency is now in the process of finalizing a remedial action plan to finish the clean-up.  Scott Green with ADEQ said the plan involves microbes.

“Microbes are often naturally occurring in the environment.  Sometimes they can be augmented.  And they help the degradation of the chlorinated solvents.  It’s called dechlorination,” Green explained.

That’s what Green hopes molasses and vegetable oil will do—help the microbes break down the contaminants.  Green said the process of installing treatment wells to inject those materials into the ground will take about $4 million if the process is streamlined and about $11 million if it is implemented over a period of about fifteen years.

In the meantime, Green says the public isn’t at any risk because the contaminated groundwater is contained.

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