Who will test my lawn soil for chemical contamination?

Asked June 2, 2017, 10:04 AM EDT

A 10 ft area of severely burned lawn mysteriously appeared one day last week. The recent rain seems to have spread the "burn" area down the hill and it is now 20 ft long. We suspected that the mosquito spraying service may have dropped a backpack of its chemicals on the lawn. They have asked their service people who say they did not. They also say in their 9 years of doing business they have never seen anything like this. The Mosquito company has been very helpful and have provided the chemical breakdown of their product. Where can I have the soil tested to determine 1) was the burn area caused by this chemical? 2) If not, what caused this burn? Could it have been vandalism and with what substance? We will have to dig up and replace the soil before we sod but we want to know how deep and how much of a margin to give the area. UMD no longer tests soil. Please help!

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

This is quite an interesting question.
It surely does look like it could be a chemical pesticide spill, but most insecticides would not 'burn' like this.
What was the chemical the company said they used, and what was the active ingredient?
Do you have a lawn care company? An herbicide spill or overapplication of certain types of chemicals could do this.
Another thought worth mentioning, but very rare: is there any chance you have a gas utility running underground in this area?

As far as soil testing goes, labs can't just test for contaminants. They need to know specifically what chemical they are looking for to test for it. It could be costly as well.

You might not need to remove any soil. You can do a sprouting test of sorts by roughing up the soil a little with a rake and planting radish or bean seeds there. They germinate quickly and you'd be able to tell by the growth, (or lack thereof) if there was remaining contaminant in the soil.

We notice, but can't tell if/why the retaining wall at the back of the photo is whitened or a different color in line with and beyond this area. Does that give any clues?