A New York soil test
Peebottle Farms: The dirt on the dirt
By Nina Lalli
April 12, 2012
I sat down with David Vigil, the farms’ manager of six years, and he gave me his expert prognosis. To my surprise my soil’s lead level was only 63 parts per million (ppm), whereas the median listed in my area is 411 ppm. The organic content of my soil is high at 33 percent. My zinc is also a little high, which Vigil says is common in soil that has compost added to it. “It’s not ideal, but it’s not toxic,” he said. Arsenic came in at 5.9 ppm, which sounds like 5.9 too many, but the median number is 15 ppm and it turns out the range goes up to 79!
The N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Soil Cleanup Objective allows 16 ppm of arsenic and 400 ppm of lead in soil meant for food growth. And, as David Vigil explains it, dust is by far the most dangerous form of lead. He also said he would be more comfortable eating food that was grown in lead-contaminated soil than vegetables grown in clean soil but housed in a space where lead particles were blowing around and possibly settling on the leaves of the plants themselves. Brooklyn College’s advice to gardeners points out that organic content (compost) can bind with lead and inhibit plants from absorbing it. They also recommend ground limestone as a way to reduce the availability of lead to plants.