UNITY TWP., Ohio (WKBN) — In the EPA’s latest newsletter on the East Palestine train derailment, people were told it’s okay to plant a garden and eat the produce. They’ve found no problems with the soil.
There have been sunflower seeds floating through the Village because the plant can help improve the soil. They’re all over the property.
Don Elzer owns Sutherin Greenhouse on Route 170 in Unity Township — three miles north of East Palestine — where out front he has a pallet full of 12 million sunflower seeds. Inside, there’s another 2 million for a total of 14 million sunflower seeds. On Saturday, he’ll start giving them away.
“Several months ago we were contacted by some seed companies and some individuals saying that they had seen on the internet that sunflowers helped to remediate toxins in soils,” Elzer said.
Elzer at first was hesitant to supply the seeds because if the plants did remediate the soil, they would have to be chopped down and landfilled early so the birds didn’t eat the seeds in the flowers.
“However, I spent some time with the EPA this morning and their studies are showing they’re not finding anything in our soil,” Elzer said. “So if nothing else, it just makes the Village very pretty.”
Ben Blackman is a plant biologist at the University of California at Berkeley. He says sunflowers were successfully used at Chernobyl to remove radioactive materials. But he didn’t know if sunflowers could remove the chemicals in vinyl chloride, benzine or fuel oil.
“The sunflower I think is mostly untested, so this would be an experiment to see if sunflower would do the job,” Blackman said.
Soil remediation or not, Elzer now has the seeds. The pallet full was donated by one of his suppliers. He got them for free and now he’s giving them away.
“It’s hard to say no to people who are donating things,” Elzer said. “No matter what it is.”
Elzer says when planting sunflower seeds wait until mid-May. Sunflowers in the early stages are susceptible to frost. Then prepare the soil, put the seeds down an inch, two feet apart, and in the early stages, water frequently.