Evaluating Soil for Urban Gardens

by Caitlin Andler
Feb 26, 2015
0

Split Spoon Investigation and Remediation

Envirologic has assisted in the redevelopment of several brownfield properties for a variety of end uses. One use of brownfields, especially in larger cities, is urban gardens. Urban gardening is a common end use for certain sites - often small urban residential lots where blighted structures have been removed. These gardens are also emerging as a popular tool for providing fresh produce to areas where traditional access to fresh produce is limited. According to a recent article, Safety of Gardening on Lead- and Arsenic-Contaminated Urban Brownfields (pdf), urban gardens have also helped to lower the span of "food deserts" in cities. "Food deserts" are areas where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited.

Typically urban gardens are being planted in raised beds to avoid growing crops in contaminated soil. Scientists are studying whether or not the environmental impacts of brownfields are affecting produce that is planted directly in urban soil. Research scientists from Kansas State University and Washington State University studied the uptake of arsenic and lead by food crops in urban gardens. Arsenic and lead are common contaminants found in urban environments. Case studies from Seattle and Tacoma, Washington have provided data regarding how soil amendments may affect this process. Lead solubility can be managed by increasing the pH of soil, however, arsenic becomes more soluble as pH is increased. Phosphorus treatments may be applied to reduce lead solubility, but, again, additional phosphorous may increase the mobility and availability of arsenic. Researchers also investigated the uptake of lead and arsenic in various crop types including root crops, leafy plants, and fruiting plants. Arsenic levels were observed to be low in all of the crop types. Lead was observed at concentrations exceeding levels recommended by the World Health Organization, but only in root crops. In any case, it is recommended to thoroughly wash crops before consuming in order to lower the chance of ingesting lead/arsenic contaminants. This research helps to demonstrate that redeveloping brownfield properties as urban gardens can be a great addition to any community if the pertinent environmental issues are carefully evaluated.

Envirologic has assisted numerous communities in their redevelopment goals. Every brownfield redevelopment presents a unique set of environmental considerations, and Envirologic stands ready help our customers evaluate the specific environmental risks associated with their property. We have helped bring new opportunities to revitalize contaminated or blighted properties.


The article reviewed is titled, Safety of Gardening on Lead- and Arsenic-Contaminated Urban Brownfields, and was presented in the CSA News magazine (Volume 59 Number 12; December 2014), which is a magazine for members of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America.


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