Paper No. 261-14
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM
HEALTHY URBAN GARDENING AND SOIL CONTAMINANT MITIGATION: THE NEW YORK CITY CLEAN SOIL BANK PROGRAM
Urban gardening provides valuable benefits to participants and local residents, including access to healthy food, reduced reliance on food transportation and distribution systems, improved air quality, increased physical activity, and space for community building and cultural exchange, while making use of otherwise abandoned lands. However, urban soils are often contaminated, most frequently in urban centers where lead persists as the toxin with the most severe health implications. Gardening activities may increase human contact with contaminated soil and may bring greater health risks, especially for young children. Constructing raised beds and covering walkways are the most commonly used methods to minimize the health risks of urban gardening in contaminated soils; however, the availability of clean soil is limited for large cities. Tens of thousands of cubic yards of pristine sediments are generated from development sites in New York City each year. These sediments have been tested by certified labs and are the basis of the New York City Clean Soil Bank. Organic waste recycling initiatives are also generating large quantities of compost that can be readily mixed with the clean sediments to create soils to meet the needs of community gardens in the City. The Clean Soil Bank Program not only produces clean soil for healthy gardening on a large scale, but also helps reduce organic waste problems in urban areas. A pilot project is being conducted in New York City community gardens to evaluate the potential contaminants in compost material, contamination during transportation and gardening processes, potential re-contamination by soils and dust surrounding the raised beds, as well as the agronomic value of different ratios of sediment and compost mixes. This program can potentially serve as a model for other cities in the quest for a sustainable future.