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Metal contamination found in Vancouver community garden, brownfield sites

oakcg16 Oaks Community Garden in Vancouver. A recent study detected metal contamination associated with high traffic ares in the soil. Photograph by: Arlen Redekop.
Soil research suggests study required before growing food on land near busy transportation corridors

By Randy Shore,
Vancouver Sun
December 2, 2014


An eight-month study of Vancouver garden and agricultural soils has found levels of lead and other metals above the most stringent Canadian standards for human health.

Samples taken from the 16 Oaks community garden averaged 219 parts per million of lead, which exceeds the standard of 70 to 140 ppm for agricultural, residential and park land set by the Canadian Council of Environment Ministers.

Levels of lead — a potent neurotoxin — are five times higher than those measured at UBC Farm, a site remote from urban activity just a few kilometres away.

Samples of soil, dust and Kentucky bluegrass were collected from UBC Farm, the community garden (which was once a parking lot and restaurant), and a former scrap yard at East Hastings and Glen Drive and analyzed for five metals of interest: zinc, lead, manganese, nickel and copper.

Read the complete article here.

See more from UBC.

Update Letter

Coping with tainted soil – Community garden members aware of problem and took steps to mitigate it

By Lauren Bouchard
Co- ordinator, 16 Oaks Community Garden, Vancouver
The Vancouver Sun
10 Dec 2014

Re: Metal contamination found in Vancouver community garden, brownfield sites, Dec. 2
On behalf of the members of the 16 Oaks Community Garden, I offer this perspective from us, the gardeners.
Firstly, Gladys Oka’s research findings are not news to us. Since its inception in 2008, our garden has participated in three UBC Land and Food Systems research projects ( 2008, 2012, 2013). From Day 1 we knew the challenges we faced given the location and the environment. We made conscientious decisions to mitigate risks, such as using raised vegetable beds ( made with untreated wood), adding clean fill every year, and using nontoxic organic approaches for fertilization and pest management. In addition, by planting grass, shrubs, and flower beds (using clean soil) we have attempted to minimize the amount and the mobility of the native site soil that was the subject of the soil sampling test results.

Behind the “news” of the research findings is the bigger story — that by implementing guidelines for assessing sites for urban growers, informed decisions can be made regarding the safety of growing our own food.


Vancouver’s native soil ‘too contaminated to grow in,’ SoleFood founder warns – Dec 17, 2014