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Soil Solutions: The Dirt on Your Home Garden Post-fire

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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:


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.


Dawn Booth is a local journalist and business owner of the communication service, Media Booth. Residing in Fort McMurray since 2007, Booth has been actively working in the Wood Buffalo region as a media and marketing expert. From her arrival to the city, until November 2010, she worked as the Special Features Editor at the Fort McMurray Today. In April 2011, she co-launched snapd Wood Buffalo and managed the publication for three years, until June 2014. In March 2014, she created Media Booth and is currently working with a wide-variety of clients in the business and nonprofit sectors throughout Alberta. Her passion for volunteering in the community has given her two civic awards from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. She has also received the title for the Fort McMurray Connect's Top 40 Under 40 and is one of Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta's 2014-2015 Women of Inspiration. A happy wife and loving mother to two young boys and a baby girl, Booth can be found easily at