Public Lab Wiki documentation

Soil Sampling Toolkit

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See also: Soil Sampling Wiki

Basic info

The Citizens Soil Sampling Toolkit addresses the concerns of citizens who want to know what levels of chemicals are in their garden, in the surface of bare soil around children’s playground equipment and in their yards due to environmental toxins. These high-exposure areas are of concern due to potential health impacts. Our kit empowers residents to sample their own property and trains them in the use of established principles and protocols. CSCR then can help guide citizens in the interpretation of results and provide the tools to advocate for environmental health and justice.


This kit was initially developed by residents living in Tonawanda, NY (a suburb North of Buffalo). They believed their backyards could be contaminated by toxic soot emissions coming from a nearby foundry coke plant called Tonawanda Coke Corp. (TCC). They knew this plant did not have particulate (soot) reducing emission controls in place. Additionally, they heard of many stories from residents complaining of what seemed to be this same substance landing in their garden and burning holes in their vegetation! Could this substance be dangerous to their health too?

In 2012 they grabbed a shovel and some jars, dug up samples of their soil and sent it to a nearby laboratory for testing. They tested seven yards and found dangerous chemicals in every one! The class of chemicals present in the samples, called poly cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), includes many known carcinogens which are associated with foundry coke production. Their concerns were validated by scientific data.

In 2013- 2014, Tonawanda Coke Corporation was found guilty of breaking many environmental laws in federal court and ordered to fund the Tonawanda residents soil study they submitted in the amount of $711,000.

In 2018, Tonawanda citizens now calling themselves Citizen Science Community Resources completed the development of today's version of soil sampling toolkit.

About the data

This kit is designed to be used to prepare samples for lab testing. Arranging for the shipment and testing of samples will be the user's responsibility. Discounts with Test America may be available by contacting the lab directly (please consult the user manual for more info).


Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.


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