Experts remove contaminated soil from Toomer’s Corner

by Christina Chambers

Bartlett Tree Experts out of Atlanta, Georgia, did not waste any time removing contaminated soil from the poisoned oak trees at Toomer's Corner Monday.

Crews used an air spade gun to break up the soil around the tree's roots. “The compressed air actually fractures the soil, breaking it up so we can remove it with a vacuum,” said manager Tom Dossett. The compressed air does not hurt the tree's roots. Removing the soil allows Auburn University to take samples of the soil and roots deep in the ground. “Removing the soil allows us to see how far the herbicide has moved within the trees and what the concentration is,” said Dossett.

After all the contaminated soil is vacuumed out, the university will put a top soil with activated charcoal around the trees to help absorb the herbicide. “The chemical that was used, we are very familiar with. The rate at which it was put down, we've never seen a wooded plant survive, but every situation is different,” Dossett said.

The international company conducted work on the oak trees in 2009 when the university redesigned Toomer's Corner. “We checked the root system and ran test on the leaves to make sure the trees could handle the stress,” said Dossett.

Crews built tarp-covered wooded frames around the tree trunks to keep the contaminated dirt and dust from infecting nearby plant life. Bartlett Tree Experts expects the excavation process to take two to three days.

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