How to test your soil

How to Test Your Soil with This Soil Contamination Testing Guide

Soil contamination is one of the leading causes of environmental pollution. It is often caused by human activities, such as depositing hazardous materials, petroleum leaks from vehicles and machinery, use of pesticides, and heating oil tank leak. The contaminants thus released in the soil include petroleum products, pesticides, heavy metals (such as lead and mercury), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Often, the only way to ascertain whether the soil under observation is contaminated or not is to carry out soil contamination testing. Here is a step by step guide on how to test your soil.


Step 1: Conduct site history

The first step in soil contamination testing is to know the history of the property and the neighboring area. Talk to the previous owner(s) of the property and visit the city archives to learn whether the site was previously an infill area, industrial area, load reduction zone, or landfill. Also, make sure to find out whether it had a history of contamination and what soil remediation techniques were used.


Step 2: Collect soil samples

You will need to collect soil samples from several different areas of the site for soil testing. You can either get a soil ph test kit or assemble your own home soil test kit consisting of the following:

  • shovel
  • trowel
  • plastic buckets
  • re-sealable bags
  • boots
  • work gloves
  • paper and pencil


Walk around the site and mark the spots you want to collect samples from. At each spot, remove the turf or vegetation and dig a hole 16 inches deep into the soil using a shovel. Take some soil and put it in a bucket. Remove stones and debris if there are any. Note the presence of debris, garbage, odor, and stains. Refill the hole with the remaining soil and replace the turf.

Create a composite of the soil samples by mixing them together. Transfer the composite to a re-sealable plastic bag. Label the bag with the following: name and address of the site, sample number, sampling date, and the name of the person doing the sampling.


Step 3: Soil sample analysis

Analysis of the soil sample is done in a laboratory. Find a reputable soil test lab from friends, colleagues, and internet research, and other sources. You can search the internet by typing ‘soil testing near me.’

Ask them if they are accredited by the right federal or state government agency and what tests they conduct for heavy metals, PCBs and PAHs. You have probably done some personal research on how to test ph of soil. Let them know that you are not a complete novice.

Find out the price and turnaround time. Ask for instructions on how to deliver the samples to the laboratory and what information they need. Download the soil sample information form from the lab’s website and fill out the required information. Make sure that you have taken the samples according to the instructions given in the form. Deliver a soil test kit along with the completed form to the laboratory according to the instructions provided by the lab.

The result of your soil contamination test will confirm whether your site is contaminated or not. It will also inform you of the extent of the contamination and the names of contaminants along with their values. While you may not know how to interpret the values, the lab will advise you what actions you need to take.


At All American Environmental, we hope you have learned an easy way to see if your soil is contaminated by reading our How to Test Your Soil Guide. If you are looking for a reputable soil testing NJ laboratory, don’t hesitate to call All American Environmental in NJ. We are a full-service environmental company who can test, investigate, assess, & remediate your soil.

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