Lead in Soil Remediation

Question: I was doing a lead risk assessment for a HUD rehab grant. Because your trainer encouraged us to always take a soil sample, I sampled one area near the house, even though there was less than the de minimis amount of bare soil in the yard. The sample came up very high (13,900 ppm). Now what should I do?


Having found such a high lead level, the risk assessor was concerned about what actions thon should take.


You must include the result in your report to HUD and in the inspection notice to the owner. You should also note that it must be included in future notifications by the property owner. However, since the soil sample was not required by HUD, abatement of the area is not required. You certainly should recommend lead hazard reduction be done on this small area. (See the Work Plan below for additional detail.)


The Law:

  1. HUD requires (24 CFR 35) that all target housing receiving more than $5000 in hard costs under the construction rehab grants program must have a risk assessment performed prior to the start of the project.
  2. The HUD/EPA protocols require that you must sample bare soil (composite of 2-10 samples) in a play area or in the general yard; HUD removed the 9 square feet de minimus in 2005.
  3. If the sample exceeds 400 ppm in a play area or 1200 ppm in the general yard, a soil-lead hazard exists.
  4. HUD requires that soil-lead hazards be reduced.
  5. The HUD/EPA guidelines say that you must abate the area (by paving it or by removing and replacing the soil) if the soil-lead level exceeds 5000 mg/kg (5000 ppm).

The Issues:

  1. Since (at the time you conducted the sampling) soil assessment was not required for such a small area, the sampling was for information only; abatement is not strictly required under 24 CFR 35.
  2. All sampling and analysis results (regardless of the reason or the method) must be included in the notifications given to prospective buyers and lessees of target housing.
  3. A soil-lead hazard clearly exists, so the owner should also take steps to reduce the hazard. I am reluctant to recommend soil removal, since doing so would create a significant hazard unless great care was taken in removing this small patch of soil.

The Work Plan

I would recommend that the owner take immediate steps to make contact with soil unlikely, such as

  1. cover the area with paving blocks, or
  2. put down duckboard and a low enclosure to stabilize the area and fill it with a non-biodegradable "mulch" such as gravel or chipped rubber.

Furthermore, the owner should ensure that the vegetation surrounding the house is kept in good condition and is well-mulched. The source of this lead is almost surely the chalking and repainting that have occurred over the century that the home has been in existence, so it is likely that all other soil near the foundation is similarly contaminated. If I had a small child who played in the yard I would certainly fence the area to prevent contact.

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