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Got Heavy Metals in Your Soil?

How to Deal with Contaminated Soil

If your urban garden has high levels of heavy metals and you still want to be able to grow edible produce, Jouraeva says to start off by “growing away from the road and away from buildings where the quality of the soil is probably better.” Then there are three solutions you can use to deal with contaminants in the soil there:

1. Physically remove the contaminated soil.

You will probably need to hire a professional contractor to do this, which Shayler says may be prohibitively expensive and “doesn’t solve the problem, it only moves it.”

2. Cover up and start over.

Clear the area of any visible paint chips and cover the contaminated soil with raised beds or landscape fabric and a new layer of fresh soil. Heavy metals do not move or seep upwards, so as long as the old and new soils don’t mix, you can simply cover up the dangerous soil with good healthy soil and start over fresh. “This will actually allow you to grow your plants in a better environment,” encourages Shayler.

3. Add a coating of organic matter to your soil.

“This will bind the contaminants and make them less available to the plant,” says Shayler. You should add one-third as much organic matter as there is contaminated soil. Compost, non-acidic peat and manure are all good sources of organic matter. “Even just adding extra compost will dilute the concentration of contaminants and make the soil better off,” she concludes.

Research is also currently being done on a process called bioremediation, which essentially grows the heavy metals out of the soil and into plants that can absorb the toxins. Then the heavy metal-ridden plants are harvested and removed so that only clean soil is left underneath. This process is thought to be useful for the removal of cadmium, zinc and copper, but is currently not viable for lead and is therefore not a great option for city dwellers.

If you think your property might contain problematic soil, call your local environmental agency and ask where you can have your soil tested. “It’s better to make informed decisions so you can remain proactive and don’t have to be worried,” says Shayler. Better to be safe than sorry. Good luck with your urban garden project, and let us know how it goes!

Related:
Heavy Metal Toxicity and Your Health
Maintaining Healthy Soil: A Gardener’s Duty
Get the Lead Out

Read more: Conservation, Health & Safety, Home, Household Hints, Lawns & Gardens, Nature, , , , , , , ,

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35 comments

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1:22AM PDT on Mar 23, 2012

HOW DO YOU GET RID OF THEM! I WANT TO START A GARDEN THIS SUMMER. I WILL DO MY RESEARCH. THANKS SO MUCH FOR INFORMATION.

5:01PM PDT on Mar 22, 2011

Grow almost anything indoors.
How to Grow Tomatoes And Peppers Under Indoor Lamps

9:10AM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

anyway to remove the containments from the soil?

9:47PM PDT on Oct 1, 2010

Thank You. Thanks for the tip: Washing produce with vinegar and water or soap will take the lead off, and possibly the other metals. Wash the produce, do not leave the dirt on, when delling with heavy metal contaminated soil.

9:06AM PDT on Sep 27, 2010

Very interesting! Thanks for the post!

3:24AM PDT on Sep 23, 2010

Very important article . I learned alot.

8:47AM PDT on Sep 21, 2010

Thanks for reading the article that I posted from Networx. Alexandra- according to the author of the article, heavy metals do get absorbed into more watery plants, like lettuce. You can mitigate the risk by peeling vegetables that have thicker skins. Thanks for reading!

7:26PM PDT on Sep 18, 2010

Buen comentario.

5:08PM PDT on Sep 16, 2010

My father died of heavy metals poisoning thirty years ago......

10:32AM PDT on Sep 16, 2010

I had never given this a thought..but my house has been here for over 100 years so I should be ok. The thing I won;t do is use the compost from our local compost area. The grass clippings that have been treated with poison sprays..are just covered with dirt and the following year it is nice looking compost..but it still contains the poisons from all the sprays.

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