ASSESSING SOIL & WATER QUALITY
This project aims to assess the quality of the soil and groundwater of a community located within an industrial zone. This includes data collection, identifying toxic substances, evaluating remediation and mitigation techniques and their impact on the soil and water, and sharing the results. The goals of the project are to reduce stormwater nutrients leaving the community and entering into the Indian River Lagoon, restore soil and groundwater quality through implementation of restorative community gardens, and engage the community and local youth throughout the project. Ultimately, the design of the community gardens will reduce food insecurity, improve local air quality, amend and restore community soil, and improve the overall environmental health of the community and its residents.
Melbourne, Florida is a town located within Brevard County, north of Palm Bay, and adjacent to the Indian River Lagoon. The location of interests for the community gardens are south of downtown Melbourne, in a predominantly Black neighborhood. This neighborhood is represented by Little Growers Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to youth empowerment and leadership development through urban agriculture and permaculture. The region is recognized as a USDA designated food desert, and as a response, Little Growers Inc. addresses food insecurity within the community and promotes sustainable practices. In the process of expanding the community gardens, there is a need to understand how industrial zoning has impacted the soil and groundwater quality, as the two proposed locations for the gardens are near chemical plants, brownfields, superfund sites, and waste transfer stations.
The priorities for Little Growers Inc. and the community are to ensure that toxic substances are mitigated or eliminated through soil and water remediation techniques in order to prevent public health hazards, improve air quality through the implementation of native plants, engage the community and promote youth leadership throughout the mitigation process, and continue to respond to food insecurity. Little Growers Inc. has chosen to collaborate with Thriving Earth Exchange on this project due to past success in responding to stormwater flooding in the community and a desire to obtain data-driven results to use in advocating for local and state funds to continue the implementation of mitigation techniques, ensure soil and groundwater health, and expand urban agricultural projects within the community. The community is currently in the process of collecting and characterizing data samples of the soil for the two proposed sites.
To achieve the goals of this project, the community would like to collect soil and groundwater samples at the two proposed sites. The community plans to characterize the soil through in-house testing and through collaboration with University of Florida Analytical Services Laboratory. For groundwater testing, the community intends to sample residential wells throughout the community and identify practices or institutions that will allow for the characterization of the groundwater. For both the soil and groundwater, the types and amounts of toxic substances will also need to be identified. After initial sampling has been completed, the community will implement bioremediation techniques and low impact development practices to mediate or eliminate toxic substances and mitigate stormwater flooding. Soil and groundwater sampling and testing will be repeated to evaluate the efficacy of the mediation techniques. The results from both the initial and final soil and groundwater testing will be published in a community report and shared with local and state political stakeholders. Throughout the process of this project, Little Growers Inc. has partnered with Beyond Organic Design to engage local youth and community members in soil and groundwater sampling and testing and the implementation of mediation techniques as education and maintenance of these sustainable practices is a priority for the community.