We are considering putting a community garden or farmer’s market in a site contaminated with asbestos. What issues should we consider? Is this eligible for EPA brownfields funding?– Kathy A.
This is essentially 4 questions in 1, which need to be addressed separately:
First – Are sites with asbestos considered brownfields under EPA’s brownfields program?
In this case, yes, EPA allows brownfields funds to assess and remediate for asbestos.
Second – How is asbestos in soil treated?
If the asbestos will not be disturbed and will not be airborne, it generally does not have to be removed (varies by state and locality). Covering it with a protective layer of clean soil is usually sufficient. If there are plans to disturb the soil, then there are different regulations involved. It also depends on the state and local regulations.
Third – Can a farmer’s market be located on such a site?
Assuming there’s a protective soil layer of about 1 foot that protects the soil from being disturbed; having a farmer’s market should be acceptable.
Fourth – How about an urban gardening site?
The considerations are the design of the garden and the produce. Generally, using raised planter boxes (separated from native soil with a protective membrane) should be OK with a protective layer of clean soil and a membrane demarcating the native and imported soil. If there is planting at-grade and/or there are fruit trees, I would consider over-excavating soils where roots and gardening tools might get in contact with contaminated soil.
For more information, check out this US EPA website on Urban Agriculture & Improving Local, Sustainable Food Systems.