Soil Testing and Contamination Top 10

/ / Environmental Testing, Healthy Building Inspections & Testing
Soil Testing

Top 10 things people should know about soil quality and soil contamination:

  1. Site history matters! If your lot is over an orchard, old landfill or leaking underground storage tank, there will likely be pollution indicators present.
  2. Building history matters. If there is (or was) a structure built before 1980 on the property, there have likely been exterior painting projects which would have resulted in lead-based paint contaminating nearby soils. Lead (and cadmium, chromium, etc.) is a persistent heavy metal that will linger in soil.
  3. Most heavy metal contaminants (solids/particles) will not travel upwards through layers of soil, and soil replacement or “encapsulation,” such as installing turf over exposed soil, are generally acceptable mitigation strategies for heavy metals.
  4. Gas and liquid contaminants will migrate up and out, and should be identified and contained ASAP.
  5. If you’re planning a garden, vineyard or orchard, testing for nutrient loads can help identify which fertilizers and soil amendments are needed – if any.
  6. If there is a good mulch covering, soil is much less likely to travel. Covering exposed soil with leaf or bark mulch, gravel, or sod helps retain soil onsite and minimize erosion by both rain and wind. (Good site drainage also minimizes soil loss.)
  7. Wearing shoes inside is one of the most common pathways for pesticides to find their way indoors. Some cultures routinely take their shoes off at the door, and there are proven health (and cleanliness) benefits to this practice.
  8. Structure and geotech. If you’re building from scratch or experiencing significant settling in an existing building, soil analysis may be necessary to understand what sort of structural solutions will be required for your site. The difference between bedrock, expansive clays and sand sediment can mean tens of thousands of dollars in additional structural engineering and construction costs.
  9. Sometimes things are better left alone. There are cases in which disturbing existing contaminated soil will do more harm than good.
  10. Healthy Building Science offers professional soil testing services and can help guide you through what is present, and what needs to be done to protect your health from soil contamination.

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