Phyto Club works to reverse groundwater contamination by planting trees


Marcella Sakols

As Silicon Valley expands, along with its tech companies, so does the waste these companies leave behind. Senior Carson Trail recognized these issues and decided to make a change through the new Phyto Club. 

Phyto Club focuses on the contamination that Microsoft manufacturing facilities have left behind when Silicon Valley first became a tech capital. These facilities used solvents like Trichloroethene (TCE) to clean their microchips, and after use, these solvents were emptied into the ground, where they contaminate the groundwater. 

Phytoremediation is not a new concept. NASA is currently working on using this method in Silicon Valley. This method works by planting trees into the problem areas, where the trees are able to absorb the chemicals. 

Phyto club works with NASA to plant trees. Photo courtesy of Carson Trail.

“[It’s] a symbiotic relationship between a certain kind of bacteria and the tree…The bacteria actually breaks down [TCE, PCE] that would normally be cancerous.” Trail said. 

He discovered this issue a couple years ago through an article in the newspaper. It went over a phytoremediation project that Dr. John Freeman and NASA were working on. 

Trail began working on phytoremediation before he founded the club. He worked at NASA to harvest cuttings that they would plant in other areas. More recently however, the club has reached out to local city officials as well, such as the vice mayor and forestry manager. 

“Our ultimate goal is to try to get a table at Arbor Day and make these big trees readily available.” Trail said. 

Due to Phyto club being a newly started club, exclusive to the school, they have started reaching out to other schools in the area such as The King’s Academy in Sunnyvale. 

“I think there’s a lot of potential [for this club to become successful] because there’s a lot of outreach and possibilities.” Trail said.