Using Mushrooms to Clean Up Waterways

Permaculture Magazine
Friday, 31st January 2014

Mushrooms are fascinating organisms, with extensive root systems that can extend for miles. They can also clean up pollutants, making them a safe way choice in bioremediation.

A test project to use bioremediation with mushrooms to clean up the Oregon waterways in America, is underway.

Bioremediation uses organisms to remove or neutralise pollutants in an area. In this project, the organism is mycelium.

Mycelium has amazing filtering capabilities and a variety of biological powers, from breaking down pesticides, bacteria and oil. 

The test project was launched on January 19th in the Sequoai Creek that flows into the Willamette River. Recycled burlap bags filled with used coffee grounds, straw and yellow oyster mushroom spawn have been used.

Leading expert on the power of mushrooms, Paul Stamet, has frequently expressed the importance of fungi, suggesting these qualities could be used to clean up the radiation surrounding Fukushima.

Paul Stamets explained to Discover Magazine last year, "Oyster mushrooms, for example, can digest the complex hydrocarbons in wood, so they can also be used to break down petroleum byproducts. Garden Giants use their mycelia to trap and eat bacteria, so they can filter E. coli from agricultural runoff."

The waterways across America are in desperate need of change. Agricultural and industrial chemicals have leaked into the waters, killing fish and amphibians. They have also been building up in the fish we eat and the water we drink.

Restoring the waterways is very important for people and the planets health, but if this project is successful, it could lead the way for remediation around Fukushima, an enormous and devastating project that needs to begin as soon as possible.

For more on this story visit

Further resources

Paul Stamets on using fungi to remediate radiation at Fukushima

Video: How mushrooms can save the world and us

How mushrooms can clean up radioactive waste: an 8 step plan

You can buy Paul Stamets Mycelium Running - how mushrooms can save the world from our Green Shopping service.

Growing mushrooms from coffee

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PhaedrusToo |
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 17:42

The micologists I know have never heard of Paul Stamet. Asserting that fungi which make use of biochemical processes can affect radiological decay, a nuclear process, is silly. Might they be able to absorb radionuclides carried by subsurface water movement? I suppose it is possible. But since fungi do no live forever, dying mushrooms would release those radionuclides back into the environment.

sgranquist |
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 18:47

There are several references in the article that you could have looked at. The Department of Defense knows Stamets's work with fungi and environmental remediation among other things. You can also see an overview of his work on TedTalks, Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World. You can find other mycologists' reviews and citations of his work at

NativeGrl |
Sat, 01/02/2014 - 22:04

"The micologists I know", common talk for I don't know what I am talking about and can't cite a darn thing so I will claim knowledge through imaginary friends....Any uptake remediation scientist knows that species used for toxin uptake do so as toxins are metabolized(Baker, K. H.; Herson, D. S. .1994) Filter feeders(, decomposers, plants, mycorrhizae and many more uptake and remediate (also means reversing damage) toxins. Phytoremediation ( plants metabolize toxins, some can even be eaten later. This has been known for tens of thousands of years. Traditional ecological knowledge teaches us that Indigenous peoples called certain plants, mushrooms, and other species "the liver of the planet".

martymouse |
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 10:07

Sounds great, but surely the best thing is to stop the pollution at the source.

Richard Tex |
Sat, 24/01/2015 - 02:45

Thank you for the Article and River Support! We have mushroom kits for sale to help raise donations for our stream projects! to find out more information on our fungi project or to help support stewardship and Education visit oir store:

Stephen V Moore |
Fri, 15/09/2017 - 00:54

It’s nice to think that Stametz is right about mushroom cleaning up hydrocarbons/oil. I wish it were true but cannot ignore that Stametz has zero documentation of a single completed study. Has anyone seen any facts? Best for cleaning up hydrocarbons are bioremediation microbes.