Saturday, January 24, 2015

DIY: Grow a Community Garden in Potentially Contaminated Soil

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 And at or

By: Amber Page

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Brief History of Soil Contamination


                Soil contamination; two words that when put together create a very serious concept.  Soil contamination is a major issue throughout the entire world.  Locations all across the planet have dealt with the pollution and destruction of their soil.  What does this mean? 

                Soil contamination occurs when hazardous substances (either liquid or solid) mix with the naturally occurring soil; the concentration of nutrients, elements, or chemicals in the soil becomes unbalanced/higher than normal.  The hazardous substances generally are a result of human action.  Soil contamination can continue and harm living organisms.  If this occurs, it is called pollution.  Soil pollution is similar to soil contamination.  It is when humans, directly or indirectly, introduce harmful chemicals or substances into the soil, resulting in the harm, death, or destruction of other living things, destruction of soil and/or water ecosystems. 
                The United States Environmental Protection Agency lists the following as a common example of an act that leads to soil contamination: “soil can become contaminated when small particles containing hazardous substance are released from a smokestack and are deposited on the surrounding soil as they fall out of the air.  Another source of soil contamination could be water that washes contamination from an area containing hazardous substances and deposits the contamination in the soil as it flows over or through it ( .
                Another cause of soil contamination could be chemicals used for farming that end up in the ground.  Common chemicals are pesticides and herbicides; these can find their way into the soil and end up destroying it.  A more indirect way for soil contamination to occur is through the spreading of one contaminated area to another.  This can occur from runoff from a heavy rainstorm or flood. 
                These are just a few causes of soil contamination and pollution.  Industrial activity (extracting minerals from the Earth and the waste lingers in the soil surface long after), oil spills (chemicals from oil make soil unsuitable once contact is made), agricultural activity (increase in chemical utilization with modern pesticides and fertilizers.  Many of these chemicals are not natural and can’t be broken down by nature), waste disposal (do we dispose of waste in a safe and efficient way?), and acid rain (pollutants in the air mix with the rain and fall back on the ground) are a few more causes. 

                This is just a brief history of soil contamination and its causes.  Check back in for how we can make a change.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Soil Contamination Vs. Soil Pollution. Defining the Differences

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One key question that is proposed in regards to the topic of soil contamination is, is it the same as soil pollution? Before one can specifically address the issue of soil contamination one must distinguish it from soil pollution. It is often assumed that soil pollution and soil contamination are entirely the same, but that is not a correct assumption to have. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) pollution is defined as the, “introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the environment (including estuaries) resulting in such deleterious effects as harm to living resource and hazards to human health”whereas contamination is defined as,“the presence of elevated concentrations of substances in the environment above the natural background level for the area and for the organism” (FAO, 2000). Soil contamination follows the provided definition of contamination but pertains to the specific topic of soil. Some key characteristics of soil contamination is that it results from human activity and when contamination begins to harm living organisms it can then be defined as a soil pollution. The FAO gives key examples of soil contamination types such as: pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals (FAO, 2000). It is important to distinguish the difference between soil pollution and soil contamination to fine tune possible solution to the problem as well as to be able to properly asses the risk of soil contamination.

By: Maryah Jackson, Portland State University

Works Cited:

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2011, May 5). Assessing Soil Contamination: A Reference Manual. Retrieved January 15, 2015 from

Sciortino, J., & Ravikumar, R. (2000, March 3). Fishery Harbour Manual on the Prevention of Pollution - Bay of Bengal Programme. Retrieved January 15, 2015, from

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cause and Effect of Soil Pollution

In today’s society, many of us live with a large carbon footprint. This causes us to use many resources, such as fossil fuels. With the rise of our living accommodations, there have been some issues of soil pollution. Soil pollution occurs through the presence of man made waste, which in turn contaminates our soil and pollutes are soil. Some causes for this pollution comes from chemicals that are in pesticides and fertilizers. The soil absorbs the chemicals, which the plants grow on the soil; therefore, we ingest those pollutants. Another main cause is waste disposal, because we produce large amounts of waste. These wastes could be dumped in landfills, which can then contaminate soil nearby. Soil pollution is an issue, because it affects many things involving our health and well-being.

There are some ways that we can reduce soil pollution and prevent it from spreading. Reducing intensive farming practices is a great way to prevent pollution. This practice is meant to maximize yields for crops using vast amount of fertilizers and pesticides. Even though these practices can produce the yield we need to feed our rising population, there is a problem. The next generations is going to pay for our consumptions because we are using and harming the land and resources. Another major way we can reduce soil pollution is from our waste footprint. If more cities adopt a sustainable living and reduce waste, such as plastic and non-biodegradable materials, then it could reduce pollution to occur. Examples could be from not using so many plastic bags when we go grocery shopping, but use re-usable bags. Recycling is a great way to improve our cities and minimize our carbon footprint.

By: Michael Nguyen