U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Science Foundation
Office of Naval Research
DOD/DOE/EPA Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program

Opening Date: September 5, 2000
Closing Date: January 22, 2001

Program Description
Funds Available
Instructions for Submitting an Application

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Remediation technologies are needed to avert risk to humans or the environment from metals and organic contaminants in environmental media.  Human disease has resulted from the presence of cadmium, selenium, and lead in soils.  Livestock and wildlife have suffered Se poisoning at locations with Se-rich soils; high soil molybdenum harms ruminant livestock.  Metals have caused phytotoxicity to sensitive plants at numerous locations, especially where mine wastes and smelters caused contamination of acidic soils with zinc, nickel, or copper.  Chemicals such as TNT and ammonium perchlorate continue to contaminate former munitions manufacturing and storage areas.  Tributyl tin and copper from ship protective coatings contaminate marine environments.  Petroleum hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, MTBE, and halogenated aromatics (PCBs, dioxins) resulting from many applications and uses are frequently-found environmental contaminants.  Although some of these situations can be remedied by conventional technologies, phytoremediation, or the use of plants for bioremediation, may offer an alternative whereby the contaminant would be either removed from soils and sediments in situ for disposal or recyling or left in place following inactivation.  Research to elucidate mechanisms of phytoremediation and in contemplation of totally new applications (e.g., with marine plants) will enable the development of this potentially valuable technology.

Phytoremediation has been applied in a limited fashion for the clean up of both metals and exogenous organic chemicals in soils.  Because metals cannot be degraded beyond their elemental states, bioremediation of soil metals has been particularly difficult and expensive. The general strategies for phytoremediation of soil metals are (1) to phytoextract the contaminants into the plant shoots for recycling or less expensive disposal and (2) to phytostabilize metals into persistently non-bioavailable forms.  Phytovolatilization, a process that may also remove metals from soil, may be more harmful than beneficial, but the basic physiological, ecological, and environmental controls are not well known for these processes.    The utility of the microorganisms usually involved in the degradation of organic chemicals does not carry over to metal contaminant problems.

Mechanisms similar to the phytoextraction and phytovolatilization of metals may also apply to the treatment of organic contaminants.  Additionally, the excretion of bioactive root exudates is an important route for either direct, enzymatic degradation of contaminants or via stimulation of the root-colonizing microbial assemblage.  Observations from field tests indicate that many plants have the capacity to extract and degrade certain organic chemicals.  However, there is little-to-no information available about the use of phytoremediation in contaminated marine sediments.  Potential scenarios for use of either submerged plants (e.g., mangroves, sea grasses) planted on site, or used in conjunction with confined aquatic disposal sites may be envisioned.  Plants may offer an alternative means for clean-up of recalcitrant hazardous wastes. However, in most successful examples of phytoremediation, we lack information about the basic mechanisms plants employ to extract and/or degrade contaminants from polluted environments.


The need to prevent or ameliorate adverse environmental effects of persistent soil and sediment contaminants, and to do so at lower cost than existing technologies, has brought increased attention to phytoremediation.  This Announcement of Opportunity is to solicit applications for research projects that address the fundamental mechanisms of interactions between microorganisms, plants, and contaminant chemicals in soils and sediments (which might include marine, estuarine, or freshwater systems) which result in the degradation, extraction, volatilization, or stabilization of the waste chemical.  Such research should address relevant aspects of plant-microorganism-chemical interactions, including the phenomena of biodegradation, extraction, and hyperaccumulation of contaminants by plants.  Information derived from such research should inform efforts to develop the effective use of plants to remediate hazardous wastes.  Collaborations of life scientists, engineers, and/or mathematicians are encouraged.

Examples of research that might be addressed include the following:

  • extent and mechanisms of plant-microorganism interactions that facilitate phytoremediation;
  • soil/sediment geochemistry, fertility, and cultural practices that influence plant-microorganism-contaminant interactions;
  • the environmental factors (e.g., temperature, rainfall) that influence phytoremediation;
  • the genetic basis of contaminant hyperaccumulation by plants that will facilitate the development of new varieties of plants for more efficient phytoremediation;
  • genetic or other adaptive changes in plants grown in contaminated environments that would pose additional risks to organisms;
  • the biochemical and genetic basis for enhanced biodegradation of chemicals by associated plants and microorganisms; and
  • use of submerged native or genetically altered marine/estuarine plants for contaminated sediment phytoremediation and stabilization.
This program is not designed for the simple field testing of plant species  for their utility in phytoremediation or the development of systems for the specific application of phytoremediation applications to particular environmental chemical problems. Applications for such research will not be considered.  However, mechanistic studies conducted under field conditions are desirable.  To avoid the high cost of establishing new field research sites, field studies should use well-instrumented, characterized, and documented sites.  Some appropriate sites that are available for field research are listed below.  The named individuals should be contacted to ascertain the logistical and financial arrangements that will be necessary for research that is proposed at the site and these arrangements should be reflected in the application.

Applicants must document where any proposed field research will be conducted and must include a letter from the site management indicating their commitment to participate in the research.  Arrangements must be made in advance regarding the possible need for funding of activities at the field site.  Do not presume that site management will be able to cover add-on research costs.

This solicitation is offered under the auspices of the Environmental Biotechnology Task Force, Biotechnology Research Working Group, Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).  A more detailed statement of interagency interests and priorities in bioremediation research can be found in the Environmental Biotechnology chapter of the NSTC report, Biotechnology for the 21st Century: New Horizons [].


Approximately $ 2.8 million will be available for this program during the first year, depending on the availability of funds and the programmatic relevance of recommended projects to the participating agencies.  The upper limit for awards is $150,000 per year, total costs, for up to three years.


Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments, are eligible under all existing authorizations.  Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive grants through this program.  Federal agencies and national laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply.

Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a grant.  FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations.  They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the principal investigator, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization or principal investigator.  The principal investigator's institution may provide funds through its grant to a FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research.  However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal employees may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through grants made by this program.  However, federal employees may interact with grantees so long as their involvement is not essential to achieving the basic goals of the grant.  The principal investigator?s institution may also enter into an agreement with a federal agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector.  Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere, etc.  A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application, along with an assurance from the federal agency involved which commits it to supply the specified service.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Dr. Robert E. Menzer, phone (202) 564-6849, EMail:


Applications will be submitted through the EPA?s National Center for Environmental Research. Proposals meeting the stated eligibility criteria will be evaluated by a peer review panel (administered by EPA).  Final selection of awardees by the participating agencies will be determined on the basis of the review panel?s recommendations, applicability of the proposed effort to the programmatic goals of an agency, and the availability of funds.  It is anticipated that each award will be granted through and be administered by a single agency; that is, no grant will be jointly funded by two or more agencies.  Applicants recommended for funding may be requested to resubmit their proposals and modify their budgets and/or work plans to comply with special requirements of the particular agency supporting their awards.  Awards will be subject to the terms and conditions of the sponsoring agency.

 Note that all forms and formats necessary for completing an application are available at

Sorting Codes

In order to facilitate proper assignment and review of applications, this topic area is assigned a sorting code.  At various places within the application, applicants are asked to identify the sorting code for this topic area.  The sorting code must be placed at the top of the abstract, in box 10 of Standard Form 424, and in the address on the package that is sent to EPA.  The sorting code for applications submitted in response to this solicitation is


The Application

The initial application is made through the submission of the materials described below.
It is essential that the application contain all the information requested and be submitted in the formats described.  If an application is considered for award (i.e., after external peer review and internal review), additional forms and other information will be requested by the Agency making the grant.

The original, signature copy of the application should not be stapled or bound in any way.  Other copies should be stapled or bound with clips.

The Application contains the following:

A.  Standard Form 424: The applicant must complete Standard Form 424. This form will act as a cover sheet for the application and should be its first page.  Instructions for completion of the SF424 are included with the form. The form must contain the original signature of an authorized representative of the applying institution. Please note that both the Principal Investigator and an administrative contact should be identified in Section 5 of the SF424.

B.  Key Contacts: The applicant must complete the Key Contacts Form as the second page of the submitted application.

C.  Abstract: The abstract is a very important document. Prior to attending the peer review panel meetings, some of the panelists may read only the abstract. Therefore, it is critical that the abstract accurately describe the research being proposed and convey all the essential elements of the research.  The abstract, limited to one page, should include the following information, as indicated in the example format provided.  Examples of abstracts for current assistance agreements may be found on the NCER web site under ?Research Results.?

 1.  Research Category and Sorting Code: Enter the full name of the solicitation to which your application is submitted and use the correct code that corresponds to the appropriate RFA topic.

 2.  Title: Use the exact title as it appears in the rest of the application. The title of the application must be brief, yet represent the major thrust of the project. Because the title will be used by those not familiar with the project, avoid highly technical words or phraseology. Do not use phrases such as "research on."

 3.  Investigators: Start with the Principal Investigator. Also list the names and affiliations of each major co-investigator who will significantly contribute to the project.

 4.  Institution: List the name and city/state of each participating university or other applicant institution, in the same order as the list of investigators.

 5.  Project Period: Provide the proposed project beginning and ending dates.

 6.  Project Cost: Provide the total request to EPA for the entire project period.

 7.  Project Summary: This should summarize: (a) the objectives of the study (including any hypotheses that will be tested), (b) the experimental approach to be used (which should give an accurate description of the project as described in the proposal), and (c) the expected results of the project and how it addresses the research needs identified in the solicitation.

 8. Supplemental Keywords: A list of suggested keywords is provided for your use.  Do not duplicate terms already used in the text of the abstract. Providing a complete set of keywords is very important.

D.  Project Description: This description must not exceed fifteen (15) consecutively numbered (center bottom), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.  The description must provide the following information:
 1.  Objectives: List the objectives of the proposed research and the hypotheses being tested during the project, and briefly state why the intended research is important. This section should also include any background or introductory information that would help explain the objectives of the study.

 2.  Approach: Outline the methods, approaches, and techniques that you intend to employ in meeting the objective stated above (five to 10 pages recommended).

 3.  Expected Results or Benefits: Describe the results you expect to achieve during the project, the benefits of success as they relate to the topic under which the proposal was submitted, and the potential recipients of these benefits. This section should also discuss the utility of the research proposed for addressing the objectives described in the solicitation (one to two pages recommended).

 4.  General Project Information: Discuss other information relevant to the potential success of the project. This should include facilities, personnel, project schedules, proposed management, interactions with other institutions, etc. (one to two pages recommended).

 5.  Important Attachments: Appendices and/or other information may be included but must remain within the 15-page limit. References cited are in addition to the 15 pages.

The following sections are in addition to the 15-page Project Description.

E.  Resumes: The resumes of all principal investigators and important co-workers should be presented. Resumes must not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins for each individual.

F.  Current and Pending Support: The applicant must identify any current and pending financial resources that are intended to support research related to that included in the proposal or which would consume the time of principal investigators. This should be done by completing the appropriate form (NCER FORM 5) for each investigator and other senior personnel involved in the proposal.

G.  Budget: The applicant must present a detailed, itemized budget for the entire project. This budget must be in the format provided in the example and not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages with 1-inch margins. Please note that institutional cost sharing is not required and, therefore, does not have to be included in the budget table. However, if you intend to cost-share, a brief statement concerning cost sharing can be added to the budget justification, which should include the estimated dollar amounts in the appropriate categories in the budget table. If a sub-contract is included in the application, provide a separate budget for the sub-contract in the same format. Include the total amount for the sub-contract under "Contracts" in the master budget.

H.  Budget Justification: This section should describe the basis for calculating the personnel, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and other costs identified in the itemized budget and explain the basis for their calculation (special attention should be given to explaining the travel, equipment, and other categories). This should also include an explanation of how the indirect costs were calculated. This justification should not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

I.  Quality Assurance Statement: For any project involving data collection or processing, conducting surveys, environmental measurements, and/or modeling, or the development of environmental technology (whether hardware-based or via new techniques) for pollution control and waste treatment, provide a statement on quality processes that will be used to assure that results of the research satisfy the intended project objectives. For awards that involve environmentally related measurements or data generation, a quality system that complies with the requirements of ANSI/ASQC E4, "Specifications and Guidelines for Quality Systems for Environmental Data Collection and Environmental Technology Programs," must be in place. The Quality Assurance Statement should not exceed two consecutively numbered, 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins. This is in addition to the 15 pages permitted for the Project Description. This Statement should, for each item listed below, present the required information, reference the relevant portion of the project description containing the information, or provide a justification as to why the item does not apply to the proposed research.

 1.  Discuss the activities to be performed or hypothesis to be tested and criteria for determining acceptable data quality. (Note: Such criteria may be expressed in terms of precision, accuracy, representativeness, completeness, and comparability. These criteria must also be applied to determine the acceptability of existing or secondary data to be used in the project.)

 2.  Describe the study design, including sample type and location requirements, any statistical analyses that were used to estimate the types and numbers of samples required for physical samples, or equivalent information for studies using survey and interview techniques.

 3.  Describe the procedures for the handling and custody of samples, including sample collection, identification, preservation, transportation, and storage.

 4.  Describe the procedures that will be used in the calibration and performance evaluation of the sampling and analytical methods and equipment to be used during the project.

 5.  Discuss the procedures for data reduction and reporting, including a description of statistical analyses to be used and of any computer models to be designed or utilized with associated verification and validation techniques.

 6.  Describe the quantitative and/or qualitative procedures that will be used to evaluate the success of the project, including any plans for peer or other reviews of the study design or analytical methods prior to data collection.

 ANSI/ASQC E4, "Specifications and Guidelines for Quality Systems for Environmental Data Collection and Environmental Technology Programs," is available for purchase from the American Society for Quality, phone 1-800-248-1946, item T55. Only in exceptional circumstances should it be necessary to consult this document.

J.  Postcard: The Applicant must include with the application a self-addressed, stamped 3x5-inch post card. This will be used to acknowledge receipt of the application and to transmit other important information to the applicant. If the applicant does not receive an acknowledgment within 60 days of the submission deadline, contact the project official listed under "Contacts" in this solicitation.

How to Apply

The original and ten (10) copies of the fully developed application (11 in all) and one (1) additional copy of the abstract, must be received by NCER no later than 4:00 P.M. Eastern Time on the closing date, January 22, 2001

The application and abstract must be prepared in accordance with these instructions. Informal, incomplete, or unsigned proposals will not be considered. The original, signature copy of the application should not be stapled or bound in any way. The required number of copies of the application should be secured with paper or binder clips.

Completed applications should be sent via regular mail to:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Peer Review Division (8703R)
Sorting Code:  2001-STAR-C1
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20460

For express mail-delivered applications, the following address must be used:

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
Peer Review Division (8703R)
Sorting Code:  2001-STAR-C1
Room B-10105
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Phone: (202) 564-6939 (for express mail applications)

Courier- or personally-delivered applications must be brought to the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004. The courier must come to the EPA Visitors Lobby (see map), tell the security guard that he/she has a delivery for the EPA mail room. The courier will be required to sign a visitor's log, and will be directed to the EPA mail room. The mail room is open 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. weekdays, exclusive of Federal holidays. If the applicant requires a receipt for the delivery, you will need to provide a form which the mail room personnel will sign.

Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements

Projects which contain sub-contracts constituting more than 40% of the total direct cost of the assistance agreement for each year in which the subcontract is awarded will be subject to special review. Additional justification for extensive use of such sub-contracts must be provided in which the need is discussed in relation to the accomplishment of the specific objectives of the research project.

Review and Selection Criteria

All assistance agreement applications are reviewed by an appropriate technical peer review panel. This review is designed to evaluate each proposal according to its scientific merit. In general, each review group is composed of scientists, engineers, social scientists, and/or economists who are experts in their respective disciplines and are proficient in the technical subjects they are reviewing. Reviewers use the following criteria to help them in their evaluations:

The originality and creativity of the proposed research, the appropriateness and adequacy of the research methods proposed, and the appropriateness and adequacy of the Quality Assurance Statement. Is the research approach practical and technically defensible, and can the project be performed within the proposed time period? Will the research contribute to scientific knowledge in the topic area of the solicitation? Is the proposal well-prepared with supportive information that is self-explanatory and understandable?

The qualifications of the principal investigator(s) and other key personnel, including research training, demonstrated knowledge of pertinent literature, experience, and publication records.  Will all key personnel contribute a significant time commitment to the project?

The availability and/or adequacy of the facilities and equipment proposed for the project. Are there any deficiencies that may interfere with the successful completion of the research?

  • The responsiveness of the proposal to the research needs identified for the topic area.  Does the proposal adequately address the objectives specified for this topic area?

  • Although budget information is not used by the reviewers as the basis for their evaluation of scientific merit, the reviewers are asked to provide their view on the appropriateness and/or adequacy of the proposed budget and its implications for the potential success of the proposed research. Input on requested equipment is of particular interest.
Reviewers will also be asked to comment on other issues including:  How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning?  How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of under-represented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)?  To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships?  Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding?  What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?

Applications that receive scores of excellent and very good from the peer reviewers are subjected to a programmatic review by the sponsoring agencies in relation to program priorities. Recommendations are then made to one of the sponsoring agencies who will make the funding decision.  Grants will be selected on the basis of technical merit, relevancy to the research priorities outlined, and budget.

Customarily, applicants are notified about award decisions within 6 months of the application deadline. A summary statement of the scientific review by the peer panel will be provided to each applicant with the award or declination letter.

Applications selected for funding will require additional certifications, possibly a revised budget, responses to any comments or suggestions offered by the peer reviewers, and an electronic version of the revised project abstract.  The sponsoring agency will contact the Principal Investigator to obtain required materials.

Proprietary Information

By submitting an application in response to this solicitation, the applicant grants the sponsoring agencies permission to share the application with technical reviewers both within and outside the Agencies. Applications containing proprietary or other types of confidential information will be returned to the applicant without review.

Funding Mechanism

The funding mechanism for the award issued under this solicitation will consist of a grant from the funding agency. All award decisions are subject to the availability of funds. In accordance with Public Law 95-224, the primary purpose of an assistance agreement is to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by Federal statute rather than acquisition for the direct benefit of the Agency. In issuing a grant agreement, the funding agency anticipates that there will not be substantial agency involvement in the design, implementation, or conduct of the research. However, the funding agency will monitor research progress through annual reports provided by the grantee and contacts with the Principal Investigator.

Expectations and Responsibilities of the Assistance Recipient

Meetings.Each applicant should include in the budget funds for a meeting each year with sponsoring agency personnel and other grantees to discuss research progress. For planning purposes, assume that each meeting will be held in Washington, DC, will require the attendance of principal investigator(s) and co-principal investigator(s).  Each meeting will be up to three days in length, exclusive of travel time.

Reports.  As a result of the grant, the recipient will agree to provide to the Project Officer annual progress reports with associated summaries for posting on the appropriate web site, and a final report with an executive summary for web posting. The recipient will be required to provide copies of any peer reviewed journal article(s) resulting from the research during the project period and should continue to notify the Project Officer of any papers that are published after termination of the assistance agreement which were based on research supported thereby.


Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the Agency officials indicated below. E-mail inquiries are preferred.

 Robert E. Menzer   202-564-6849
 Environmental Protection Agency

 Tom Veirs    202-564-6831
 Environmental Protection Agency

 Kimberlyn Williams   703-292-7886
 Ecological and Evolutionary Physiology Program
 Directorate for Biological Sciences
 National Science Foundation

 Fred Thompson   703-292-8320
 Bioengineering and Environmental Systems Division
 Directoral for Engineering
 National Science Foundation

 Linda Chrisey    703-696-4504
 Office of Naval Research

 Catherine Vogel   703-696-2118
 Strategic Environmental Research and Development  Program