Soil Solutions: The Dirt on Your Home Garden Post-fire
After being evacuated during last year’s gardening season, some avid green thumbers are eager to get their hands dirty again. Regular professionalized soil testing has ensured safety to the Fort McMurray community by the Alberta Government. However, residents growing edible gardens should know the key soil testing factors before digging in.
Residents were first given the green light on environment quality, after Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the monitoring testing took place in May and June 2016. This result was concluded based on ash and air samples.
As for soil samples, the Alberta Government collected data from 62 public areas in burned and unburned places to check for potential hazardous particles and ensure the soil meets the standards of the human health guidelines.
According to the results, there was no indication of metals found in any community gardens. Though, analysts concluded that “elevated salinity results are an indication of fair to poor soil quality, which may affect plant growth, but not human health,” as stated on the Alberta Government website.
“Soil samples were collected from gardens in unburned area. Results indicated that residents can safely plant a garden and consume foods from those gardens,” explained Operations Manager of the Recovery Task Force for the RMWB Erin O’Neill. “Results show that all chemical concentrations are below human health-based guidelines.”
Some residents may want to conduct testing of their own. For those planning to do so, O’Neill reminds residents to make sure they are regulating their soil tests to the appropriate standards.
“If residents are doing their own testing, it is particularly important that the test is done against the Alberta Tier 2 of the Human Health-based guidelines,” explained Operations Manager of the Recovery Task Force for the RMWB Erin O’Neill. “Some other residents have had their testing done against the Alberta Tier 1 guidelines, and have had various results come back.”
The Alberta Tier 1 is based on locations in the Boreal forest surrounding Fort McMurray.
The results for Phase 3 of Environmental Monitoring are expected to be received this spring. Basic soil testing kits can be purchased at local home and garden centres.
The full soil data list from the preliminary assessment can be found on the Alberta Government website: https://www.alberta.ca/environmental-monitoring-fort-mcmurray-soil.aspx
Photo: The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has ensured soil is safe for growing edible gardens. New environmental monitoring testing results will be released this spring.