Treating Cancer with Landscape Architecture
An Associated Press article published by The New York Times a couple of months ago told us that the Elysian and Silver Lake—the “two reservoirs that supply drinking water” to sections of Los Angeles—were found to contain “high levels of the carcinogen bromate.” When alerted, the city's Department of Water and Power took them both out of service and announced that beginning early this year, they would drain, clean and refill the reservoirs, a process that could last until the summer.
Alternatively, they could consider implementing in parts or in whole a design proposal from out of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the California Polytechnic State University in Pomona.
In this proposal — the product of a collaboration in 2005 between Ken McCown, Andy Wilcox and Kevin Hinders, with research and production assistance from their students — the fenced-off Silver Lake is turned into a public open space hosting one giant bioremediating ecological machine, one that could theoretically render inert the cancer-causing bromate and other pollutants.
The key elements are thus:
1) Presently, the Colorado River and the California Aqueduct supply water to the reservoir, though in the past, the Los Angeles River was the feeder channel. The proposal restores this historical link.
2) A terraced ring canal follows the contour of the reservoir. Installed on the terraces are modular biopods used to bioremediate the 43 pollutants listed by the EPA as present in the Los Angeles River. The cleaned water is then gathered and stored in an underground tank beneath the reservoir before it is put out for use in the city.
It's landscape turned into a therapeutic and preventative medicine, applying natural processes into an artificial apparatus.
3) The inner wall of that canal forms an internal dam that elevates the water level for the purposes of aesthetics.
4) The whole site is turned into a park, the third largest in a city that “suffers from a paucity of recreation and occupiable public space in comparison to other world cities of similar prominence by almost every means you can measure for this!” Instead of jogging along a fenced periphery, people can do so inside, on top of the canal or on designated paths.
5) The park has an unabashedly pedagogical program. There is a water center, water laboratories, a community center, a library, a pythoremediation garden, and a demonstration and research wetland.
In other words, it's like a Museum of Science and Industry. One wonders if every elementary school kids in the Greater Los Angeles area will be forced to go on field trips there, creating indelible childhood memories that will either be positive or negative ones.
One kid in particular will accidentally get pricked by an irradiated transgenic post-plant. The following morning, he tells his perplexed aunt and uncle that he wants to become a landscape architect when he grows up. That or he mysteriously mutates overnight into a Phytoremediating Superhero. Exactly who or what he will be fighting for and fighting against will be the so-called hero's dilemma. Our awesome screenplay for his story will be turned into a blockbuster movie. The Superfund Trilogy.
In any case, we're anticipating that questions will be asked about the viability of the proposal to detoxify the water and about what actual plants and organisms will the biopods have.
We have this suggestion: to brush up on the scientific literature and perhaps create a plant list of your own in process, browse through this website by John W. Cross (last update: September 27, 2007) on all things phytoremediation. Primarily bibliographical, it only lists books, journals, peer reviewed articles and links to other sites on the topic, but what a list! And though its listings may not be exhaustive, compared to this site and this EPA site, the quantity shouldn't be very intimidating to non-scientists.
Larger versions of the images can be viewed in Ken McCown's Flickr photoset, which also contains other images of the proposal.