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A little help from the fungus kingdom

Yesterday I went on a quest for the fabled fungus that’s been mopping up petrochemicals from a food co-op’s parking lot. Olympia Food Co-op‘s eastside store was the place. I timed my visit just right, happening upon a crew of landscapers working the butterfly and bird garden.

The grounds of this food co-op include a sweet garden meant to attract pollinators.

Outside the food co-op is a sweet garden meant to attract pollinators (and people).

Sarika, the co-op’s landscape coordinator, jumped at the chance to tell me about the project. The mycoremediation began five years ago in partnership with Olympia Mycelial Network. Oyster mushrooms are able to digest petrochemicals into harmless compounds. So the drainage ditch of the parking lot contains several burlap bags full of oyster mushroom mycelium.

Bags filled with oyster mushroom mycelium.

Bags filled with oyster mushroom mycelium.

The idea is to filter the oil before it hits the drain down by the sidewalk.

Ever wonder where the runoff disappears to when it enters a drain like this?

Ever wonder where the runoff disappears to when it enters a drain like this?

I also met Brittany and Jordan, two young Louisiana-born “WWOOFers” volunteering with Sarika. They are traveling around the country with another friend, exploring farming innovations and learning how they can be of use to our beautiful planet. (Check out their adventures at Traveling Tripod.)

Jordan, Sarika, and Brittany

Jordan, Sarika, and Brittany

Brittany waxed eloquent about the role of mushrooms—this critical work is all about ensuring “clean water for everyone.”

Signage showing the overview of the mycoremediation

Signage showing an overview of the fungi’s work

Having been in the Pacific Northwest for almost a month, I’m beginning to grasp the extreme sensitivity of Puget Sound. This project represents just one small but significant effort to right the wrongs of our polluting ways.

Hood Canal, a basin of Puget Sound, as seen from Potlatch Beach on a moody day.

Hood Canal, a basin of Puget Sound, as seen from Potlatch Beach on a moody day.

The possibilities are staggering. Peter McCoy, who last year contributed a guest post about radical mycology, first told me about this project over a year ago. Finally seeing those humble mushroom bags doing their work brought tears to my eyes.

Sarika is looking into funding to pursue farther-reaching remediation. And the Radical Mycology Collective, of which Olympia Mycelial Network is a part, is launching its fall tour today. I can’t wait till the big Radical Mycology Convergence, taking place in Orangeville, IL this October!

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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