Clawson Community Garden Project Postponed after City Finds Lead in Soil
City officials hope to construct an elevated garden next year in the same lot.
Clawson's plans to produce fresh vegetables in a community garden will be postponed after tests revealed lead contamination in the soil.
Soil scientists conducted tests in May and June in the half acre of land next to the Department of Public Works building on West Elmwood.
City Attorney John Kingsepp said the results showed concentrations of lead and organizers decided not to plant in the soil out of consideration for residents and consumers.
"It was enough to concern us and say we oughta not to plant here," Kingsepp said.
Kingsepp said the vacant lot was used as a dump in the early 1900s. Residents or passerby would dump waste such as metal or chemical components in the lot. Over the years, Kingsepp said, Clawson expanded and the area was covered with layers of soil.
"That’s not uncommon with many of the south Oakland communties," Kingsepp said.
Many gardeners believe lead contamination lasts forever, and without corrective measures, lead levels will not return to normal, according to an article by the University of Rhode Island Island Landscape Horticulture Program. The article also states that if fruits and vegetables are consumed from a contaminated garden, there are health risks.
Plans for next year
Mayor Penny Luebs said once the testing was finished it was too late in the summer to move ahead with alternative plans. The city had initially planned to begin planting in May after the DPW tilled the land.
"We are out of time to regroup," Luebs said. "The general consensus was to wait until the new year."
Kingsepp said the designated land remains ideal for a community garden because it receives direct sunlight and provides ample space for planting.
City officials are exploring the idea of creating an elevated garden next spring. Gardeners would build planters above ground and grow the fruits and vegetables out of them.
"We will want to be certain that it is suitable to allow a healthy product to grow for consumers," Kingsepp said.