Ecolotree helps clean our environment


Poplar trees
Poplar trees

Lou Licht, who received his PhD in the University of Iowa’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is using poplar trees to clean polluted water.

Licht started the Iowa-based company Ecolotree. This company installs forests of poplar trees near sites that leak pollutants. Through a process called phytoremediation, the roots of the poplar trees help filter some of the harmful pollutants, and keep them from contaminating the water and soil.

Ecolotree has worked with 110 sites in the U.S. and one in Europe.

Learn more about Licht and his company here.

Ecolotree cleans up in Oregon


Photo by Joost J. Baker, Flickr

Lou Licht, a University of Iowa professor and founder of Ecolotree Inc., will be teaming up with the Port of Morrow industrial park in Boardman, Oregon to remove nitrates from the soil.

Licht’s company is based in Iowa and creates forests that are engineered to help clean landfills or chemical spill sites.  The Port of Morrow will be using Licht’s poplar trees to control the nitrogen in their East Beach Industrial Park.

To read more, check out the East Oregonian’s coverage here or read more below.  You can also listen to our radio podcast about Licht’s work here.

The Port of Morrow is embarking on an environmental project to test the effectiveness of trees for helping to remove nitrates from the soil. Continue reading

Iowa City will host renewable energy symposium this weekend


I-Renew will host a renewable energy symposium from April 28-May 1 in Iowa City.

The UI’s Iowa Memorial Union look a little greener this weekend.

From Thursday to Sunday it will play host to the 2011 Iowa Renewable Energy Association Symposium and Exposition – the only event of its kind in the state. Continue reading

Garner nets EPA grant for Sewer Upgrades


Photo by Carl Wycoff, licensed for reuse on Flickr

Thanks to a $485,000 grant from the Environmental Projection Agency, the North Central Iowa town of Garner will complete a much-needed upgrade to its sewer system by Spring of 2011, according to an EPA release.

The project includes replacing undersized sanitary sewers and rehabilitating existing manholes. An existing 12-inch sanitary sewer will be replaced with 2,650 feet of new 24-inch sewer pipe.

With a population of about 3,000, Garner is one of hundreds of small communities in Iowa that have outmoded sewer systems or lack a system entirely, according to a 2005 Iowa Policy Project Report.

That prospect poses dangers to Iowa’s environment and public health, leaving some waste to drain into Iowa’s waters.  Continue reading

Poplar Science: Iowa’s Lou Licht uses trees to clean up pollution


Photo: IowaWatch.org

Check out this piece from IowaWatch.org on Lou Licht and his earth-cleaning poplars.

NORTH LIBERTY – Lou Licht was once a polluter – aiding and abetting companies that spewed toxins into the air and water.

Today he could hardly be greener.

With a quick-growing, toxic-zapping tree and a patented technique, Licht cleans up the types of messes he once helped create. His professional and environmental interests are wrapped up in trees, and he hopes to apply his work in Iowa.

He’s an entrepreneur with a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Iowa. But in some ways, Licht still is like the dairy farmer he grew up as. Only now, he grows things. His crops are poplar trees that filter fine particles and formaldehyde from the air. When planted in swales, they retain and filter water from rain, reducing storm surges and runoff in flood-prone states like Iowa. And, they can treat sewage.

“In the case of Iowa, where we are surrounded by farmland, the right 15-20 acres can do all the tertiary treatment for a town of 1,000 people,” he said.

On the Radio: Growing Trees, Cleaning Iowa


A view of a section of poplar trees that grow on Licht's land in North Liberty.

Listen to this week’s radio spot on Lou Licht, who uses trees to clean up the land, water and air. For more information on Licht, check out the Iowa Independent, or read this interview with him: The Accidental Capitalist.

Planting trees: A proven way to clean up Iowa’s land and water – and save money.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa-native Lou Licht is the founder of Ecolotree, an engineering firm that uses trees to clean up toxic sites.

He’s the first person in the world to do so.

Ecolotree has cleaned up landfills, brown fields, and hazardous waste sites around the world.  The idea can also help curb farm runoff that pollutes Iowa’s rivers and streams.

Licht’s low-cost, quick-growing poplar trees could be a solution for many Iowa towns that need to upgrade their out-dated sewer systems.

It goes to show that sometimes you can save a little green by going green.

For more information, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

I’m Jerry Schnoor with the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank you.

How Clean are Iowa’s Waters?


The answer to the question posed above is “not very” at best, and “filthy” at worst. Much of Iowa’s water pollution comes from farm runoff like fertilizers and herbicides.

Check out this harrowing map of data compiled by the New York Times as part of its thorough series “Toxic Waters.” It pinpoints facilities in Iowa that have racked up violations of the Clean Water Act. In Muscatine, two facilities have over 100 violations since 2004. Those plants haven’t been inspected since 2005 and 2006 respectively. Check out the different state map to compare Iowa’ records to other states, like Nebraska and South Dakota.

More on Iowa’s dirty water:

Later on this blog, we’ll have some in-depth information about UI alum Lou Licht, who is using poplar trees to zap clean pollution from water, air and land.

Here are some Licht-related links as a little preview: