Lead in soil

Asked May 13, 2020, 11:47 PM EDT

Hello! In 2018, we had soil from the front yard of our DC row house tested, and the test results showed dangerous levels of lead (641.4 ppm). We have three young children, so we have avoided our front yard since receiving the test results. Now that we're home all of the time, we would like to reclaim that space. It's a very small yard, but it would be better than nothing! We have no idea how to deal with this lead issue. Can you offer any advice? I have read online that you can cover the contaminated soil with mulch, but I'm concerned that my children will just dig through the mulch and reach the contaminated soil. Also, a yard full of mulch would not look nice. Is there a way to safely plant bushes and flowers?

District of Columbia County District of Columbia

1 Response

Hi- planting herbaceous perennials and small shrubs would be a good way to create a high-density planting that will cover the soil and reduce the risk of kids digging, soil being exposed, soil moving off-site., and soil particle being carried into your home or soil dust inhaled.
1. maintain the soil pH in the 6.0-7.0 range.
2. Add several inches of compost to the top of the ground. You can plant through it rather than trying to incorporate it which would increase exposure. You can some additional compost when you make your planting holes. Steps 2 & 3 will help immobilize lead in soil.
3. Mulch the area after planting with some type of organic mulch-, such as shredded pine bark.

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lead-garden-soils
Jon