iowariver

Soil pesticides and contaminants testing.

iowariver
July 15, 2019
last modified: July 15, 2019

I'm moving to a small town that had a one time dam breach flood in 2018 and am wary of contaminants in the soil. Could anyone recommend a soil test kit or lab that would economically test the soil for the presence of such things as pesticides, heavy metals, PCBs, etc? All I find so far are water test kits and very expensive lab analysis. Thanks.

Comments (8)

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

    i would contact the local county extension or Ag office.. and see what they can tell you about it all ... they are usually related to the state Ag college ... as in MI state .. OH state.. and probably iowa state .... etc ....


    no idea on the tests though ...


    found this.. but it closed last dec 2017 .. go figure... its a lead though: http://soiltesting.agron.iastate.edu/


    ken

    iowariver thanked ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Like many extension services, IA no longer performs soil tests. And all you would get is a basic nutrient analysis anyway. Testing for contaminants or pesticides requires specialized testing that is only done at certain professional testing labs. There are a number of places that can do this but you have to specifiy what to test for - you can't just request a test for 'contaminants' but need to specify what possible contaminants you want the sample tested for. Same with any pesticides. As you can imagine, this often involves multiple tests with multiple samples and there is a fee for each. It can get rather expensive.

    Even if they no longer do any testing themselves, I'd recommend visiting or emailing the extension office anyway, as they may very well have localized knowledge of what, if anything, you should be testing for and the best and most economical source for those tests.

    iowariver thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • toxcrusadr

    Are you saying your property specifically was flooded?


    If a dam breached, how do you know there was anything in the water other than...the water that was behind the dam? Did it flood populated areas and carry a lot of stuff through? Are there potential pollutant sources nearby? Give us a little more detail on exactly what happened and where, in relation to your property.


    Unless you know of a specific source - like a tank or facility that was known to have leaked or catastrophically failed, releasing chemicals - probably all that came through was sewage, which is long gone.


    GG is right about testing. There are multiple classes of pesticides which require different lab analysis methods, and metals, PCBs etc. have their own methods as well. Which can add up to hundreds and hundreds of dollars at an env. laboratory.


    Lacking specific, nearby releases, the chances of lingering contamination are low. I would look only for specific releases and go from there. Otherwise it's like looking for a needle in a stack of expensive needles.

    iowariver thanked toxcrusadr
  • iowariver

    Yes. I'll be contacting Extension not to mention the PCA and the flood emergency coordinator to see if any updated tests have occured. The whole town flooded. Having once talked with toxicologist who used a GC Mass Spec., he said they could look non-specifically for anything unusual and then narrow down on it. He called it detective work, but that the Universities are no longer allowed to take that approach due to requirements by their attorneys and/or insurance companies.

    The inexpesnive home tests that look for the for the presence of pesticides do not specify which presticides they detect. The sellers evade the question when asked.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I have never seen any home soil test that was directed specifically for pesticides. And I teach classes on soils!! To be honest. most pesticides breakdown relatively rapidly once exposed to the soil and its biology so I would be far more concerned about other toxins or contaminates. There are a few very persistent herbicides that can remain active for an extended period of time but it is pretty simple to do bioassays to detect if they are present in your soil or compost.

    iowariver thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • toxcrusadr

    How exactly did you phrase the question to the sellers? They are not required to answer questions they don't have the answers to. If you ask if the soil was contaminated and they don't know because 1) they haven't tested it and 2) they don't know of any reason it would be, many people would hem and haw. If they have some knowledge or test results, they should share them. Beyond that, I don't think they are obligated to know.

    iowariver thanked toxcrusadr
  • iowariver

    Will be updating once I contact the authorities in a day or so. Thanks to all for your interest, advice, and help.

  • toxcrusadr

    One more comment regarding GC/MS analysis. In order to run that type of analysis, you have to extract the target classes of compounds from the sample (soil, water, etc.), purify by removing extraneous materials that come along with them in the extraction, and inject a clean, concentrated sample into the instrument. The extraction and cleanup steps are different depending on the target chemicals. So your friend is a bit optimistic about general detective work. It's not like Dr. McCoy's tricorder that you can wave at something and it tells you everything. We're not there yet.


    When I worked in a lab at grad school, we once got sent a donut from a campus cafeteria with a request to 'find out what's in it.' When we got done laughing, we had to ask them why they were asking and try to narrow down what they were looking for. That's an extreme case but you get the idea.

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