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Question:Testing for Contaminants in Garden Soil

by ngocthuyluu | November 19, 2020 01:35 | #25075


Hi! I am a resident of a low-income neighborhood in Seattle. Due to Covid-19, our trash and recycle pick-up routes have changed over the past few months and we've experienced more delays.

Our main concern:

Littering and furniture dumping is common to see in my neighborhood, but with pick-up delays, trash bins have been left overflowed for days, sometimes a week. Bins are usually stationed on the street in front of our houses for pick-ups, but they had to be moved to back streets for a more efficient route. I am worried that our Seattle rain has increased trash runoff/leaching. Since the bins are now in our backyards where my family has our produce garden, I'm concerned that our soil has been contaminated with the runoff. Overflowing trash has also attracted rodents that like to hang out near our compost.

Obstacles and supporting information:

  • The Public Housing offices have a phone number for all neighborhood concerns; we usually call when there's a delay and they most likely contact Seattle Utilities.
  • Delays have been less frequent in the past month, but littering and dumping is still an issue.

What are the initial questions?

  • What are some budget friendly options to test for soil contaminants?
  • Do you think this project is even feasible for one person?
  • What Seattle organizations should I get in contact with for help?
  • Are there ways to test for contaminants in the fruits and veggies we grow if not the soil?

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@ngocthuyluu Public Lab had discussions around this about a year ago with some Texas communities. I would start here for some great introductory ideas posted by @DanielleS Link to contributions here https://publiclab.org/notes/author/DanielleS

@ngocthuyluu thanks for chatting with @bhamster this week about soil! Here's a great garden related post from @DanielleS (mentioned earlier): https://publiclab.org/notes/DanielleS/03-10-2019/soil-testing-for-contaminants-how-to-and-things-to-consider#c25304

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@jjcreedon also this is a great resource for soil: https://sfa.terc.edu/materials/pdfs/SfA_SoilGuide.pdf

Thanks for this info.. some very good points and ideas. This case study relies on government agencies to take and test the soil samples (which does save the community money). What happens of the agencies dont listen to the community? This is where residents can test their own soil..you know all this.. btw, we have this in the works too https://cscrsoiltesting.next.fieldscope.org/

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@ngocthuyluu I recently came across this information about lettuce seed bioassays for toxicity in soil and water. Maybe a low-cost option to try out? http://ei.cornell.edu/toxicology/bioassays/lettuce/index.html

The “Testing environmental samples” link has instructions for how to perform the bioassay on soil samples.

And there are some other ideas coming up in the comments section of this question too: https://publiclab.org/questions/bhamster/02-05-2021/what-are-other-ways-to-assess-soil-contamination-besides-directly-measuring-contaminant-concentrations

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