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Starting an edible garden and wonder what's in your soil?

Soil Testing

Soil TestingWether you need commercial soil testing or you are starting an edible garden, a soil survey will inform you of what is in your soil. Soil testing involves collecting soil samples, analyzing samples at a soil lab, and ultimately a soil expert helping to interpret soil lab results.

Historical Land Use & Soil Quality Testing

An old orchard or gas station comes with a laundry list of concerns when it comes to soil contamination. Some legacy pesticides and herbicides will linger in soil for many decades, and oil and gas plumbs from leaking underground storage tanks (LUSTs) may present significant legal and financial liability for any land owner.  Equally worrisome are historic dump sites or any lot with a pre-1980 building on it. Why 1980? Because before 1980 lead-paint was common and when buildings are painted the old paint was stripped and discarded in the nearby soil where it still may linger in dangerously high concentrations. Historic land use is important when determining relative risks and identifying what soil pollutants should be tested.

Sometimes people don’t know previous uses of an existing property, and it is impossible without testing to know what pollutants are present in soil. Most soil contaminants are impossible to detect without professional soil laboratory analysis.

Common Soil Assessment Parameters

Soil testing and soil science are complex and far-reaching subjects. When embarking on a soil survey there are two large categories of soil analysis:

Determining Appropriate Fertilizers and Soil Amendments

This is for the vintner, gardener or orchardist interested in optimizing the health of their vines in the vineyard, plants in the garden, and trees in the orchard. Your soil expert should steer you in the right direction, but the most common parameters for soil nutrient analysis include:

  • Soil Chemistry and Structure
    • Cation saturation, pH, compaction, organic matter
  • Essential Soil Elements
    • Soluble salts, hydrogen, boron, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, sodium, sulfur
  • Metals in Soil
    • Copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc

Notably absent from the above list are the hundreds of common soil contaminants associated with industrial farming, manufacturing, oil and gas spills, etc. The purpose of a nutrient analysis is to determine what, if any, soil amendments are needed to optimize growing conditions for your specific plant list. A good soil consultant and soil lab will ask what you are growing and make specific recommendations about what should be added to your soil.

Testing for Soil Contaminants

For soil compliance testing or health concerns about soil, your soil expert will consider testing the following common soil pollutants. This is not an exhaustive list, but these common soil contaminants are often included in an environmental soil assessment:

  • Heavy Metals in Soil
    • Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Lead, Molybdenum, Nickel, Selenium, Silver, Thallium, Vanadium, Zinc and Mercury
  • Legacy Soil Pesticides
    • Alpha-BHC, beta-BHC, gamma-BHC, delta-BHC, heptachlor, aldrin, heptachlor epoxide, endosulfan I, dieldrin, 4,4′-DDE, endrin ND, endosulfan II, endosulfan sulfate, 4,4′-DDD, endrin aldehyde, 4,4′-DDT, alpha-chlordane, gamma-chlordane, methoxychlor, toxaphene
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)
    • Traces of oil, gas and other fuel byproducts found in soil. Including (TPH-G, GRO) and (TPH-D, DRO)
  • Qualitative or Quantitative Sewage Screen
    • Indicator species of bacteria associated with sewer pipe leaks can be analyzed in soil, though other animals present in nature can complicate this analysis.
  • Semi-volatile Organic Compounds (SVOC) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC testing) for soil chemical off-gassing

Healthy Building Science will sample and test your soil and provide a user-friendly report that takes the guesswork out of soil science.

Soil Testing Bay Area Projects

  • Soil nutrient analysis for vineyards in Sonoma and Napa
  • Soil pesticide testing for home garden in San Jose
  • Lead and heavy metal soil testing for San Francisco commercial buildings
  • Commercial soil testing for cleaning up a marijuana grow operation
  • Soil testing Santa Rosa school yard
  • Soil testing San Francisco Victorian home for lead
  • Arsenic soil testing for contaminated well water site in Sunnyvale

Soil Inspection San Francisco Bay Area

We provide soil consulting and soil testing services to vacant lots, industrial and manufacturing workplaces, and single family homes in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties.

We would be pleased to become your go-to soil expert and help you with any of your soil laboratory testing requirements.

Please call 415-785-7986 or complete this online form today!

Soil Testing Benefits

Soil Testing BenefitsStandard Nutrient Screen (pH, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur) Biocides (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides - heavy metals, chlorinated compounds) Paint Chips or Leaching (lead) High Traffic Areas (lead, zinc, PAHs) Treated Lumber (arsenic, chromium, copper) Burning Wastes (PAHs, dioxins) Petroleum Spills (PAHs, petroleum byproducts, solvents, heavy metals)

Soil Testing Services

  • Standard Nutrient Screen (pH, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur)
  • Biocides (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides - heavy metals, chlorinated compounds)
  • Paint Chips or Leaching (lead)
  • High Traffic Areas (lead, zinc, PAHs)
  • Treated Lumber (arsenic, chromium, copper)
  • Burning Wastes (PAHs, dioxins)
  • Petroleum Spills (PAHs, petroleum byproducts, solvents, heavy metals)
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