It may seem impossible and even unwise to grow a garden in an area that contains previously contaminated soil. Fortunately, it is not only possible but can be beneficial to the health of your community. Deciding to grow a garden using a potentially contaminated area sounds risky but there are many steps you can take in order to create a healthy garden for your family and community. On their website, the Environmental Working Group offers ideas and instructions for growing a garden in urban soil that is potentially contaminated. They explain what types of contaminants may be found such as lead, arsenic, and chromium, how to find out which contaminates are present, and how to manage and possibly improve the soil using raised beds or stabilization or extraction techniques.
It is very important to be cautious and follow guidelines when planting in potentially contaminated soil as humans and animals can be exposed to contaminants through ingestion while working with the soil and also through ingestion of plants that have been grown in contaminated soil. The Cornell Waste Management Institute offers ideas of how to reduce exposure to contaminants in your crops by washing produce with a vinegar solution or discarding parts of plants that may have come into direct contact with contaminated soil. However, it is possible for plants to take up certain contaminants through their roots so it is important to always test your soil.
More information on how to test soil and build your garden can be found on the EPA’s website in a document called Reusing Potentially Contaminated Landscapes: Growing Gardens in Urban Soils at http://nepis.epa.gov. And at http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/Soil_Contaminants.pdf or
By: Amber Page