Cleaning America’s Dirtiest Water Way with Plant Island

The Gowanus Canal is located Brooklyn, Kings Country, New York. The canal was built in the mid-1800s and was used as a major industrial transportation route for paper mills, tanneries and chemical plants. As a result, the companies that operated up and down the 100-foot wide, 1.8 mile long canal, poured their waste into it. Besides harmful chemicals and toxins being poured into the canal overflows from sewer systems and rainwater storm drains also rain off into the canal. Leading to extreme levels of contaminants such as, polycyclic aromatic and metals such as, lead and copper. Making this canal one of the dirtiest body of waters in all of the United States. 
In 2015, a unique project was launched to help clean up the Gowanus Canal by landscape architect and urban designer Diana Balmori. The project is called “GrowOnUs” and is a floating island that will be place on the canal dirty waters. This floating island is made up of 19 plants living in metal culvert pipes filled with plastic bottles. The structure is made up of bamboo, woody plant material, water hyacinth rope, shredded plastic, coconut matting and oak cork. This material that makes up this island, will soak up and collect the dirty water to purify it in the reservoir underneath. Floating islands like the one found in this canal serve as a model of the interface and transitions between the river and the overall landscape of the city.