Which Metals are Lurking in Your Neighbourhood?

July 5, 2018
Matt Dodd
Roman Forum, Rome

Natural weathering, industrial activities, automobile exhausts, paints, wood preservatives and herbicides can potentially introduce metals into urban environments. We have therefore been conducting investigations on metals in the urban environment including boulevard and backyard gardens, parks, playgrounds and roadsides. I had the privilege of presenting some of our data on “Metal Distribution in Urban Garden Soils in Greater Victoria” at this year’s Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) conference in Rome.  SETAC is a “worldwide professional organization dedicated to the study, analysis and solution of environmental problems, the management and regulation of natural resources, research and development and environmental education”. Apart from interacting with some of the 2600+ delegates from 65 countries at the conference, I had the chance to take in the sights and sounds of the eternal city. The abstract contained the results of the past two years of research by our Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science students in collaboration with the Victoria Compost Education Centre as part of the Healing City Soils project.

Colosseum, Rome

The data for over 500 soil samples collected from 190 homes and community gardens in the municipalities of Victoria, Esquimalt, Oak Bay and Saanich indicate variable metal distribution among the municipalities and the soil from most backyard and community gardens posing no risk to human health. Based on historical research and interviews, the potential sources of these metals include paint released into garden soils through sanding, chipping, leaching and other home maintenance practices, automotive repair, parking lots and historical industrial activities. Check out the interactive map of the distribution of these metals in garden soils in Greater Victoria. The Victoria Compost Education Centre has developed fact sheets on soil contamination and best practices for healthy urban gardens.

This year’s BSc team is working on samples from the Western Communities and other locations in order to fill in the gaps on the interactive map.