History of Abandoned Urban Sites Found in Soil

Old houses and vacant lots may not look like much to the naked eye, but to some, the site is better than gold. Excavations over the years can create a challenge to study what's left behind and often appears as if dirt and debris ended up mixed in a blender then pressed by a giant trash compactor.

However, in Detroit, one scientist and geologist is finding some of the city's abandoned lots provide a surprising "natural laboratory" for studying certain processes involved in soil formation; particularly the weathering of rocky and mineral objects within the soil layers. Jeffrey Howard's analyzed soil in the heart of the Motor City since he first dug an experimental pit on the site of a demolished building a few blocks away from his office at Wayne State University. And Howard says what he's been finding ever since, continues to amaze him, leading to his newest research.

"With an urban soil, we know what 'time zero' is," Howard says. "We don't know that as well in nature." If he's working on a vacant lot where the building was demolished in 1969, for example, "that's when the soil started to form."

Howard's learned he can further date the processes in his "natural laboratory" by digging at sites where a dated cornerstone or other historical record tells him exactly how long the processes have been taking place. He's also finding Detroit the perfect starting place, where urban soil is slowly revealing the city's story as a world leader from the Industrial Revolution through World War II, to the now dramatic contraction of surplus houses, abandoned factories and crumbling landmarks.

The results map the passage of time, showing some of the old underground debris may be having a beneficial effect in certain polluted soils. And he's finding a mix of manipulated conditions.

"They didn't know that's what they were doing then, but scientifically, now we're able to see something that we otherwise wouldn't have seen," Howard says. "And that's huge."

More information: See the complete results from this study in the just released, online only publication, Soil Horizons, at: https://www.soils. … icles/53/2/6

Download Center

  • Monitoring and Reporting on Air Emissions for Regulators and the Real World

    When it comes to managing compliance and regulatory issues surrounding air emissions, there are no easy jobs. With interviews from practitioners from American Electric Power, Red Cedar Gathering, Trinity Consultants, and Cority, this eBook provides practical advice to advance your air emissions monitoring and reporting programs.

  • What Every EHS Professional Should Know About ESG

    Join experts from Arcadis and Cority on April 27th to learn the most common ESG reporting frameworks and how technology can help you improve reporting efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and create defensible audit trails.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Read the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get an unbiased comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • RFP Template for Waste Management Software

    Learn the essential questions to ask when evaluating waste management software solutions with this free, ready-to-use RFP template

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

Featured Webinar