Primary Investigator: Jiwei Zhang
Co-Investigators: Ulrike Tschirner, Shri Ramaswamy, Luke Heffernan (Undergraduate Scholar)
Industry Partners: PotlatchDeltic Bemidji Lumber; Andersen Windows and Doors
Award Type: Seed Grant – Undergraduate Research Scholar

Problem: When treated lumber ends up in landfills, harmful chemical preservatives can be leached into nearby groundwater and soil. Despite EPA banning many of these commonly used wood preservatives, products such as Copper Chromium Arsenic (CCA) and creosote continue to generate environmental issues. Moreover, waste lumber is also considered a reusable biomass resource that could provide an additional revenue stream, if harmful chemicals can be  properly removed.

Solution: The Zhang Lab will collect samples from landfills that stack lumber waste and test for the presence of fungi. The team will then examine identified fungi and assess their tolerance to CCA and creosote, as a first step in determining a possible method for decontaminating lumber waste. Additionally, the fungi will be assessed for their ability to decompose wood, also part of the process in creating a source of biomass to be used for bioproducts.

Impact: Identification of fungal species from sources of wasted lumber products could provide new methods of chemical remediation – ultimately preventing CCA and creosote from leaking into wastewater and soil. The use of fungus in remediating waste wood biomass would enhance the potential new revenue stream for chemical-free biomass and bioproducts.

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