Friday, March 20, 2015

In Conclusion

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Or rather, our time maintaining this blog has come to a close. And yet, before we go, we must remember what we have learned, what we have accomplished, and most importantly: what we have left behind for future readers.

This term, we've focused upon the very real issue of soil contamination. It has been our mission to explore, explain, experience, and discuss this global issue. We've created a wide variety of blog posts with the hope of giving our readers a fair background on the subject. As a class, we came together to create a website dedicated to soil contamination. We used our research and our talents not only to maintain this blog, but also to create something that we are truly proud of.

And yet, none of this would be possible without the hardworking students who undertook this task. It is only appropriate, then, that we take the time to thank them for their dedication and effort.

Coordination Group:

Hanna Bernhard
Hayley Johnson

Erin Kashuba *

Amber Page

Dipita Thapa

Content Development Group:

Hanna Bernhard*

Kimberly Carpio

Amber Page *

Amanda Huss

Erin Kashuba

Daniel West

Kristina West
Technical Group:

Ashley Wheeler*

Marketing Group:

William Baker

Hayley Johnsen*

Michael Nguyen

Ashley Wheeler

Client/Liason Group:

Alana Chan

Maryah Jackson*

Abdulaziz Mohammed Rahimpoor

Alexandra Painter

Di Wang

Daniel West*

Kristina West*
Creative Group:

William Baker*

Kimberly Carpio*

Alana Chan*

Amanda Huss*

Maryah Jackson

Tessa Millhollin*

Michael Nguyen*

Amber Page

Alexandra Painter*

Abdulaziz Mohammed Rahimpoor*

Dipita Thapa*

Di Wang*

Ashley Wheeler*

Although we must pass the blog reigns onto a new class of eager students, we leave behind this blog as a resource to readers and future students. Please visit our website, Dirty Soil, to find out how you can help reduce soil contamination right from your own home. For more information about other environmental issues, you can visit our archives to explore past term projects, or follow this blog for a new issue each and every term.

It has been a pleasure to learn alongside you. Thank you for your continued time and support.

Class of Winter 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Perks of using Organic Soil

The sustainability of soil occurs in its natural formation in a series of layers that starts at the surface down to the bedrocks. The exposure of soil to its atmospheric elements aid in breaking down organic material. This includes: bacteria, fungi, algae, and insects that provide recycling activity to enable mineral and nutrients from decaying material and returned to the soil. To improve the overall health and longetivity of soil, good soil structures need to be protected by replacing disruptive layers, renewal of surface layers by supplying organic material such as compost and manure. Using organic material will improve the water and  nutrient holding ability of the soil. Organic material in the soil consists of good insects, microbes, worms, and fungi. Living creatures will churn dirt into richer soil, eat the bad creatures, and fungi can form a symbiotic relationship with the plant's roots. In result, the soil itself would self-renew and maintanance would less occur. Keep in mind that organic fertilizers do not yield fast results as it does with synthetic ingredients. The compost or other organic material are slow releasing and produce at a slow, steady rate.The longetivity outcome is that the soil grows with microbial life along with a lot of time spent gardening.
There are ways in which to keep your garden organic by the following:
- add compost before fertilizer
-use organic lawn and vegetable fertilizers
- reuse compose waste, especially kitchen waste
- compost tea
- organic weeds and feeds
- organic potting soil
- organic flower and bulb fertilizer (kelp meal, bone meal, alfalfa meal)
- nitrogen-rich orgnanic fertilizer


Created by: Kim Carpio

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Home & Garden DIY Ways to Save the Soil!

There are several things that YOU can do at home to make a difference in the world of soil conservation. After several resources and lists gave different suggestions, I have compiled a list of my favorite and most "do-able" conservation tactics:

1) Compost!
- easy peasy lemon squeezy! make your own bin or request one from your local recycling center

2) plant a "Rain garden"
- basically create an indented basin somewhere in your yard. this allows rainwater to collect. it helps prevent soil erosion and can aid in growing wetland plants!

3) Restore wetlands!
-Speaking of wetlands, they are one of the most effective ways to prevent soil erosion! By donating to and volunteering in the cleanup of the wetlands, you can greatly aid in soil conservation!

4)plant buffer strips along rivers and creeks
- a little bit more hands on but buffer strips allow river and stream banks to remain intact during flooding or high storm volume times. they are also all natural, and can be made of compacted soil and hemp string.

5) Use a rain barrel!
- so simple, so easy, so effective! A rain barrel allows you to use excess water for your plants, lawns, and other outdoor needs! This saves money and resources from using traditional sprinkler systems!


So many different types of pollution

One of the most interesting aspects of environmental pollution, especially when it comes to soils, is the fact that there is no single category of it. Soil contamination comes in many forms: chemical pollution, heavy metal pollution, groundwater pollution (seeping into soil), human/animal waste (potentially dangerous in concentrated amounts) etc.

For this post, I have compiled a list of different types of toxic pollution and the long term effects of those pollutions. Here are the following major ways in which pollution can make its way into soils:
  • Seepage from a landfill
  • Discharge of industrial waste into the soil
  • Percolation of contaminated water into the soil
  • Rupture of underground storage tanks
  • Excess application of pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer
  • Solid waste seepage
  • Petroleum hydrocarbons
  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Solvents

The most important thing to note while reviewing this list, is that ALL OF THESE things are preventable and by not preventing them, we allow ourselves to become victims of the lethal and longterm consequences, which is something that should be taken very seriously by all those looking to make a difference in soil conservation.

wonderful world of compost

While making your morning coffee, you might fuss about cleaning the filter and pot, silently cursing the tiny little beads of ground coffee sashaying into your fingernails and cuticles, and sprinkling themselves all over the counter. Such a hassle and for what? All for a cup of jo, thats remnants will eventually just end up in landfill. Sighing, you might stir that same cup of coffee, while you nibble over a banana and the morning paper. Picking up the banana peel and coffee grounds you go to slam them into your trash can because: BE GONE morning breakfast brats! But, wait!  You can help save the world with just one simple change of how you view those brats. That change is compost.The environmental benefits of composting are absolutely unprecedented and what most people do not know is how quick, easy and simply it is to set up, even if you live in a big city.
 Compost enriches soilsCompost has the ability to help regenerate "bad" soil! Composting greatly encourages the production of beneficial "micro-organisms" (things we might consider bad, such as bacteria and fungi) which break down organic matter and produce humus. Humus—"a rich nutrient-filled material"—increases the nutrient content in soils and helps soils retain moisture. Compost has also been studies and proven to aid in suppressing plant diseases and pests, reduce/ eliminate the demand for chemical fertilizers which makes the food we grow and eat 10x healthier!

Compost helps cleanup contaminated soilThis is a big one! One of the few ways on earth for this to be done naturally, the composting process has been shown to eat up odors and treat "semivolatile and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)" which inclue heating fuels, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and explosives. Composting also binds heavy metals and keeps them from seeping into water supplies. According the environmental protection agency: "The compost process degrades and, in some cases, completely eliminates wood preservatives, pesticides, and both chlorinated and nonchlorinated hydrocarbons in contaminated soil." That's right, you read it correctly, ELIMINATES PESTICIDES!

Using compost offers economic benefitsWho wants to save some money, honey? Organic compost can significantly lower the demand for water, fertilizer, and potentially harmful pesticides. It is a low-cost alternative to traditional, lethal landfill cover and artificial soil. Composting also aids in extending municipal landfill life by diverting organic materials from landfills and provides "a less costly alternative to conventional methods of remediating (cleaning) contaminated soil."

This can all be done by simply creating a compost bin for your home or requesting an official bin from your local recycling and garbage processing plant!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Soil Contaminants and Best Practices for Healthy Gardens

As we know the soil contamination does harm to plants, animals and humans health. We have to figure out the way to avoid it. How do plants get contaminated? There are several ways which include deposition from that air, uptake into plant roots, and direct contamination by garden soil. Also, there are some barriers that limit heavy metal transfer into crops. ♦ Soil-Root Barrier: Some toxic metals (such as lead) have low solubility in most soils, and do not readily enter the plant through roots. ♦ Root-Shoot Barrier: Most toxic metals bind relatively strongly in roots, and movement to other plant parts is limited. ♦ Shoot-Fruit Barrier: Most toxic metals are largely excluded from entering the reproductive parts (fruits, seeds) of the crop, remaining instead in the vegetative.
 However, if some soil are already contaminated what should we do? Some garden crops can take advantage of these natural barriers. The suitable plants include Vegetable Fruits and Seeds: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, okra (seed pods only), squash (summer and winter), corn, cucumber, melons, peas and beans (shelled or cleaned very thoroughly), onions (bulb only) ♦ Tree Fruits: apples, pears ♦ Berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries (if cleaned very thoroughly).


By: Di Wang

DIY Home Gardening, the organic and sustainable way.

There are several gardeners who grow their own plants and crops.  Many of us tend to go to the store to buy traditional advertised products for growing, maintaining, and reproducing. However, these products are filled with harsh chemicals that are toxic to you and to our garden. We as gardeners should advocate how to go chemical free and convert our gardens into a more organic, sustainable property.  The outcome of an organic garden will inhibit good soil to grow healthy plant roots that will survive through harsh conditions. There are 5 soil additives that we can add to our routine or gardening.

(1) Rotted Manure, a base that is rich in nutrient content, can build a strong structure of carbon compounds within the soil. It must be well rotted or it will burn your plants. The first step would be to add the rotted manure to the soil before plantation and top it as a dressing around the plants.

(2) Worm Castings, in other words, worm poop creates a strong structure to the root zone to hold moisture. A product that is organic certified is called Organic Mechanics, can be used for each hole for planting.

(3) Actino-Iron, an all natural OMRI certified additive that combines the Actinovate organic fungicide with organic iron humates to control root diseases and to keep the plants green. It is used to strengthen the roots of the plants and stays green through a drought. Iron builds the root zone and soil microbes to produce more root hairs to strengthen the base of each plant.

(4) Pure Elements Soil Success, a product that is good for soil growing to improve grass renewal, perennial beds, annual flower gardens, and vegetable gardening. The addition of humates in Pure Elements aids in the reduction of tomato bottom end rot. It also increases soil microbial activity and improves germination, shoot, and root growth.

(5) Homemade Compost, by the far the “#1 rule of healthy gardening” because not only is it free but it is sustainable to our environment. Grass clippings, kitchen scraps, dry leaves, coffee grounds, and other natural kitchen home remedy are all examples of homemade compost. It allows microbes to interact with root hairs to build stronger roots and smoother weeds around healthy plants.


Created by: Kim Carpio

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Effects on Human Health

There are many considerable effects of soil pollution and contamination.  An enormous result of contamination is the effect on human health.  Let’s think about it for a moment: soil is the main reason humans are able to sustain life.  The contamination of soil has enormous consequences on the health and well-being of humans. 

Unfortunately, crops and plants that are grown on polluted soil absorb a decent amount of pollution and pass the contaminants on to us when we eat and/or use the contaminated crops.  Long term exposure to contaminated soil can affect the genetic make-up of the body and can results in chronic health problems and congenital illnesses that don’t easily have a cure. 

The above image is an example.  It shows how different areas in the United States are vulnerable to nitrate contamination of ground water.  Generally, these areas have well-drained soils and high nitrogen input from fertilizer, manure, and atmospheric deposition.  Ground water is the sole source of drinking water for most rural communities and a variety of chemicals can pass through the soil and lead to the contamination of ground water.  This is just one example of the dangers of soil contamination.  Though nitrate isn't incredibly harmful to adults, infants whom ingest the contaminated water can have low oxygen levels.  This is just one chemical (nitrate) in one country.  Imagine all the chemicals over the planet and what effect they can play on the health of humans.  

Measures That Can Be Taken

Soil contamination is a problem that has many possible solutions.  The issue being that it is difficult to jump start these solutions in order to help gain control over the pollution and contamination of soil across the planet.  So, what are some possible solutions to this issue?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there are three general ways to go about cleaning up soil that is contaminated and/or polluted.  The first is that soil can be excavated from the ground and be treated or disposed.  The second approach is that soil can be left in the ground and treated in place.  The third approach is that soil can be left in the ground and contained to prevent the contamination from becoming more widespread and reaching plants, animals, or humans.  
How do you go about containing this soil?  Generally, containment of soil (in place) is done by placing a large plastic cover over the soil to prevent direct contact and keep rain water from seeping into the soil and spreading the contamination.  How can we work on treating the contaminated and polluted soil?  One option is by flushing contaminants out of the soil using water, chemical solvents, or air.  Another possibility would be to destroy the contaminants by incinerations.  We could also encourage natural organisms in the soil to break them down or add material to the soil to encapsulate the contaminants and prevent them from spreading. 

As you can see, there are many different routes that can be taken when dealing with the prevention and/or treatment of contaminated and polluted soil.  In my eyes, the main issue with these is that it is costly and time consuming.  With so much soil across the planet being contaminated over time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to contain the problem.  It’s important that we begin to implement and carry out these measures to restore healthy soil. 

Soil Contamination in the United States


           It is often said that awareness is the first step toward change. This blog has highlighted the dangers of soil contamination and emphasized that it is a global issue. However, seeing a problem in a different way can often times help inspire action.
            The U.S. Geological Survey released a set of maps that show distribution of selected contaminants in soil across the United States.  In order to create the maps, about 40 people collected thousands of soil samples from over 4,500 sites throughout the country from 2007 to 2010.  They collected three samples from each site, from the surface down to approximately three feet.  Scientists then analyzed the samples for 45 elements, including contaminants such as lead, arsenic and cadmium. The information was then compiled and the maps were created, lending a new view on the soil in the United States.

            To access all of the maps and read more about the national-scale project, please visit the U.S. Geological Survey website at:

Gardening and Soil Contamination

          Soil contamination can really put a damper on things, especially gardening. Whether you are gardening in the city or way out in the country, it is important to be aware of the risks of soil contamination. Even in the most rural of locations, soil can be contaminated.  Here are few things about soil contamination to keep in mind when gardening:
  • Know the history of the land you are gardening. This can give very important clues into whether or not the soil is contaminated, and whether or not your plants are healthy for human consumption.
  • Plant health is not necessarily indicative of clean soil. While you may instinctively assume that because your plants are healthy and thriving, they must be safe, this is not always the case. Arsenic and lead, some of the most common soil contaminants, are not toxic to plants like they are to humans. Beware and don’t make this dangerous mistake.
  • Create a raised bed to minimize exposure to contaminated soils. When designed properly, raised beds can prevent plant roots from coming into contact with contaminated soil. 

      When in doubt about the cleanliness of the soil, it is always best to err on the side of caution. To be certain, you may have a sample of the soil tested for quality.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Impacts of Mining Projects: What can be done

There are a few ways that people on an individual level can reduce the environmental impacts of mining, including:

Reducing the consumption of minerals
All types of consumer goods such as cell phones, cars, appliances, other electronics, etc. are examples of products that utilize materials manufactured due to mining. The production of goods and services, today, require over eighty tons of natural resources annually, per person, including materials from mining. One way to limit the effects of mining on the environment is to simply consume less, so that less minerals are needed to build products. This can be achieved through a more efficient use of resources, and also by simply using less and recycling more. The phrase reduce, reuse, and recycle has never had more of a necessity for adherence than today, as consumption levels of natural resources are expected to rise in the future. Reduce by avoiding buying what you do not need. Reuse by buying used items, and actually use what you already have. Recycle by actually recycling. Private industries have very little incentive to improve their environmental practices. Our consumption choices can encourage and support good environmentally friendly behavior. 

Increasing conscientiousness 

Be aware of potential mining projects in your state, or for others fighting against large mining companies. Our Canadian neighbors, for example, hold the headquarters of 75% of the worlds mining companies. On a more local note, Oregon too has a considerable number of active mines. Support thoughtful innovators in manufacturing and production. Voting is taking public action and is one of the most important measures a person can take. Political engagement enables the spread of environmentally conscious policies and government regulation. There is a global need for a campaign to end mining activities. There are protests all over the world happening already. 

An example of a successful protest campaign

Pebble mine is a huge mining battle that has been happening in the state of Alaska. If built would cover over 20 square miles of state land in the Bristol Bay watershed, and would be one of the largest mines in the world. Pebble mine would be located in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, which are two of the eight major rivers that feed Bristol Bay. Bristol Bay is one of the few and most productive wild salmon strongholds that runs an extremely high risk of being polluted. Many people throughout the state have been involved in the protest to stop this enormous project and to protect the Bay. With lots of time and effort, concerned citizens, fishermen, lawyers, and others, put a halt to the work on Pebble mine in 2014. To keep a mine project of this scale inoperative, a continuation of work and efforts will be necessary in the future. 

The most important reason to get involved is to be an advocate for the environment and for yourself. Take the time to learn about issues in your local area. This will be the gateway to larger issues, such as mines, that do affect the public. Activism is a quality that each person should possess, not necessarily on a large scale, but the examples given above are things that most everyone can do. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and educate yourself on local environmental issues. These are simple yet powerful actions that have positive reverberations that can lead to a better tomorrow. 


Image source:

Added by Mary Painter

Friday, March 13, 2015

Leaking Underground Storage Tanks – A Threat to Our Health and Safety

After World War II automobile sales soared and, as a result, there was also a large increase in gas stations to keep up with peoples desires to travel longer and longer distances. Gasoline was stored underground in massive steel tanks that were not resistant to corrosion. These underground storage tanks, were only meant to last thirty to fifty years but have continued to stay buried for much longer and have been leaking harmful chemicals into the earth surrounding them since the 1980s.

Leaks are often slow but once the gasoline escapes from inside, it will move through the soil and float atop the groundwater supply. The gasoline will then begin to vaporize and be able to be detected at ground level. Almost fifty percent of all Americans get their drinking water from underground sources and contamination due to these leaking tanks poses a serious threat to many communities.

Nearly 400,000 underground storage tank sites requiring remediation had been identified by 2001. Clean up is necessary, as the chemicals leaking into the soil and water supplies pose serious human health concerns. The most harmful of these chemicals present in gasoline is benzene, which poses the risk of cancer when water containing the substance is used for drinking or bathing. A second harmful component is methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, which is added to gasoline in order to make it burn cleaner. MTBE is also known to cause cancer and many states have begun to stop using it as a gasoline additive.  In addition to health concerns, there is also a threat of fire when vapors make their way through sewage lines and into buildings.

Solving this issue usually relies on removing the leaking tanks, the surrounding contaminated soil, and the harmful components present in the groundwater. This process can take many years to accomplish. Unfortunately for some extreme cases, reversal of the contamination is not possible and the effected communities have had to resort to other water supplies.

Funding for storage tank removal in the United States commonly comes from state licensing fees on gasoline and from EPA grants. Modern day tanks are subject to EPA standards that must be corrosion resistant and be equipped with advanced leak detection. 

Nearly 1.5 million tanks have already been closed but there is still a lot more work to be done since the number of these sites in need remediation is not known.

Added by Will Baker

Impacts of Mining Projects: Tolls on the Environment

The mining sector is responsible for some of the worlds largest releases of heavy metals into the environment. Mining is the bases for severe and sometimes irreversible tolls on public health, water, air quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and community interests. A long list of environmental ills are attributed to the mining process. These include, but are not limited to:

Mining is an inherently invasive process that can contaminate soils over a landscape much larger than the mining site itself. Mining operations modify the surrounding landscape by exposing previously undisturbed earthen materials. “Erosion of exposed soils, extracted mineral ores, tailings, and fine material in waste rock piles can result in substantial sediment loading to surface waters and drainage ways”(Guidebook for Evaluating Mining Project EIAs). The inevitable spills and leaks of hazardous materials and the deposition of contaminated windblown dust will result in soil contamination.

An unsettling fact on lead and mercury emissions from mining: 
Australia, Canada, and the United States, countries with some of the worlds leading environmental controls, have airborne emissions from metal mining and smelting totaling 980 metric tons of lead and 9 metric tons of mercury annually. These lead emissions amount to more than 80 percent of lead production in these countries (OKInternational).

Pollution controls can minimize exposure to workers and surrounding communities, but these safeguards are often absent in mining operations in developing countries.Unsafe mining practices around the world have been responsible for a continuing series of environmental and human health disasters, which cause great calamity and subvert social stability, economic development and sustainability goals. Mining is a issue for all, as it harms the earth which all citizens of the globe inhabit.


Image from:

Added by: Mary Painter