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Profitt Report: What Flint gardeners should know about lead safety

Photo credit: Christopher Craig / CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

To grow fresh produce, you’ll need a few things: seeds, good soil and water. However, gardeners in Flint are worried about the safety of their vegetables while using Flint city water.

According to a study by Edible Flint and MSU Extension, lead contaminated water does not significantly increase soil lead levels. However, gardeners in any urban environment should be careful with their soil.

“Now we have to be careful of our water,” said Diane Merrell, who grows vegetables at her Flint home.

Merrell said she collects water in rain barrels instead of using water from her hose.

“That’s God's water, not Flint water,” she said.

However, Deb Hamilton said her organization, Edible Flint and Michigan State University Extension find Flint’s water crisis hasn’t significantly impacted the quality of soil.

“We did another soil test during 2016 and then they looked at it, there was hardly any uptake of change in level [of lead in the soil],” she said.

Lead can already be found in our backyard dirt, and thanks to industries of yester-year, gardeners in any urban setting need to be careful.

“We always really urge them to get soil tests so we know what the lead level is,” Hamilton said.

If your soil lead levels exceed 400 ppm, Edible Flint said, don’t plant in the ground. Instead use raised beds with fresh, non-contaminated soil.

When it comes to watering, if you're concerned, you could use rain barrels like Merrell does or purchase a lead filter for your garden hose.

“I know a lot of people do the osculating, you don’t want to put the water on your leaves, leafy vegetables, wash your roots, so there are a lot of precautions you can take. Right now, we are not finding that the lead is effecting the gardens,” Hamilton said.

For more information from Edible Flint, please click here.

Poor soil quality isn’t an issue unique to Flint. Gardeners in any city should be testing their soil before they plant.

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