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Auburn University removes soil at Toomer's; "It's a process"

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By Katherine Kington -  bioemail

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) -  Monday morning, Auburn University began removing all of the poisoned soil around the two oak trees.   Test results showing the severity of the herbicide in the soil came back last Thursday, so why not begin removing the soil then?

Officials say that on Wednesday, the same day they broke the news of the poisonings; they put down the activating charcoal into the top soil and were waiting for it to do its job, drawing the herbicide into the charcoal, and away from the roots. 

Auburn Officials say by trying to save the clay under the soil and waiting on this process it could save the trees lives. Now the soil will be removed to the roots where more charcoal will be added to the bottom.

"We are down to the clay according to the DOW representative the herbicide should not be any deeper than that, so we're down roughly 18 inches now and we're cutting the root mass trying to remove as much soil as possible," said Gary Keever, Professor of Horticulture.

Last Friday, tarps were put around the tree bases to shield rain water from coming down into the soil.

Some wonder why they weren't put down shortly after the January 27th phone call to the Paul Finebaum radio show. Nearly nearly four inches of rain fell has fell since that call to the radio show. 

Keever says they initially thought the rain water would help the trees,  "To carry the herbicide out of the roots the herbicide is very water soluble and we thought that it might pull it out of the roots and that'd be beneficial to the tree but now we're concerned about how far down it will go."

So what now? What about the newly exposed roots? How deep has the poison penetrated?   Samples of every layer of soil are being taken in the removal process and will be tested to see where the herbicide stops.

"We take fresh, clean soil. We add a little bit of active carbon, or charcoal, and that's just basically insurance because if there's some herbicide that's still maybe migrates into new solid then it will act to absorb it," said Keever.

University officials say at this point the trees will likely die so they might as well try to do everything they can to save the trees because either way they will have to rid the soil and start anew.

Professor Keever told News Leader 9, "We won't know that until about mid-summer or late fall if the trees will survive or die because the herbicide won't move up into the tree until it actively grows in the spring."



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