Public Lab Wiki documentation

Soil Sampling Toolkit

71 views | Last edited by jjcreedon 10 months ago | #17115

This page is currently under construction. Please stay tuned for more information about how to use this kit! In the meantime, you may wish to explore our Soil Sampling Wiki

Where To Get One

The Soil Testing Toolkit will be offered in the fall of 2018 as a Community Kit . If you are in the Western New York Area, you may also be able to borrow one for free from CSCR's Lending Library.

Basic info

The Citizens Soil Sampling Toolkit addresses the concerns of citizens who want to know what levels of chemicals are in their garden, in the surface of bare soil around children’s playground equipment and in their yards due to environmental toxins. These high-exposure areas are of concern due to potential health impacts. Our kit empowers residents to sample their own property and trains them in the use of established principles and protocols. CSCR then can help guide citizens in the interpretation of results and provide the tools to advocate for environmental health and justice.


This kit was initially developed by residents living in Tonawanda, NY (a suburb North of Buffalo). They believed their backyards could be contaminated by toxic soot emissions coming from a nearby foundry coke plant called Tonawanda Coke Corp. (TCC). They knew this plant did not have particulate (soot) reducing emission controls in place. Additionally, they heard of many stories from residents complaining of what seemed to be this same substance landing in their garden and burning holes in their vegetation! Could this substance be dangerous to their health too?

In 2012 they grabbed a shovel and some jars, dug up samples of their soil and sent it to a nearby laboratory for testing. They tested seven yards and found dangerous chemicals in every one! The class of chemicals present in the samples, called poly cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), includes many known carcinogens which are associated with foundry coke production. Their concerns were validated by scientific data.

In 2013- 2014, Tonawanda Coke Corporation was found guilty of breaking many environmental laws in federal court and ordered to fund the Tonawanda residents soil study they submitted in the amount of $711,000.

In 2018, Tonawanda residents along their scientific advisor, Dr Shaun Crawford and Public Lab collaborated and completed the development of todays version of soil sampling toolkit that is now available in PL's store.

What environmental problems might this apply to

  • For example, particulate matter in air, turbidity in water, lead in soil?

What limitations does the method have

  • not weather proof? needs a calibration?

Literature review

  • has it been done?
  • how?
  • who has done it?

What is the design philosophy

This kit is designed to follow EPA protocol for gathering and preparing soil samples for lab analysis.


You can tag this kit in any questions you post by adding "question:soil-testing-toolkit" in the tag area

About the data

This kit is designed to be used to prepare samples for lab testing-- currently Test America is offering discounted soil testing to kit purchases (we recommend connecting with the lab directly to confirm current pricing). Stay tuned for a list of local labs and contact information.

Purchase a Kit

This kit will be available through the Public Lab Store. Stay tuned for updates!


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