Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sheep decontaminate TNT-tainted land

Scientists are using sheep to decontaminate TNT-tainted land. Morrie Craig, a veterinary scientist at Oregon State University, has found that sheep can efficiently clean up explosives-contaminated soil, of which there is 1.3 million tons throughout the U.S.

TNT and other explosives from military munitions training and remnants of old factories remain in the ground for decades.  These residue rarely poses an immediate human health threat, but officials at the Department of Defense are concerned that it could seep into ground water or poison plants.

Conventional clean-up techniques are expensive and time-consuming.  In 2004, Craig discovered that the bacteria in a sheep's stomach that help digest cellulose can also rapidly convert TNT into a harmless compound.  Craig and his colleagues plan to plant grasses in TNT contaminated soil to suck up the explosives -- and let the sheep munch away!

Read full article in Popular Science

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