Survey of Dublin Soils
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Survey of Dublin Soils
Dublin SURGE Project
- Soil Urban Geochemistry

Mairead Glennon, Ray Scanlon, Michael Sheehy, Pat O’Connor, Enda Gallagher

October saw the fieldwork phase of a first-ever baseline study of soil quality in Dublin. The Dublin SURGE Project sets out to establish geochemical baselines of metals and organic chemicals in Dublin soils. The project will provide information on soil chemistry in the urban environment relevant to human health, land-use planning and urban regeneration. It will also allow us to identify and quantify human impact on soils in urban areas through comparison with adjacent rural soil baseline geochemistry.

Sampling team at work

GSI and the Norwegian Geological Survey (NGU) are co-ordinating the survey and the fieldwork phase is now complete. 1065 soil samples have been collected and prepared for laboratory analysis. All four local authorities in the greater Dublin area supported the project and the vast majority of samples were taken from areas that are publicly accessible (e.g. public parks and school grounds). The results of the survey will be publicly available by early 2011.

Map showing Sampling points Sampling points

European Partnership
Eighty per cent of the European population lives in cites. Most cities have well-established monitoring systems for air and water, while soils have received comparatively little attention. To remedy this, a consortium of European Geological Surveys has initiated an Urban Geochemistry Project to investigate the chemical make-up of urban soil in European cities. GSI has lobbied successfully to have Dublin included in the first phase of the project. This is a very significant outcome for Ireland since no baseline geochemical information of any significance exists for Irish urban environments, whilst many European cities have been developing such databases in the past decade.

The first phase of this Euro-wide project will involve mapping soils in 10 selected cities across Europe for a wide range of potentially harmful chemicals (e.g. heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and organic compounds such as ploychlorinated biphenlys – PCBs) which may pose risks to human health. The study is part-funded under the NDP, and by NGU, as part of what is an overall "EuroGeoSurveys" study.

Fieldwork Programme
1065 soil samples were collected to characterise the spatial variation in soil quality over an area of some 600 sq. km in the greater Dublin area. The sampling was carried out by teams of trained personnel from the Geological Surveys of Ireland and Norway (Norway has already carried out very successful soil sampling surveys of its cities). Survey teams worked off carefully planned and mapped schedules and in accordance with agreed procedures. At each sample site, GPS coordinates and field observations were recorded and two digital photographs were taken (a general landscape shot of the surrounding environment and a site photograph showing details of soil texture).

Interpretation & Results
The surface soil samples will be analysed at the geochemical laboratories of NGU. It is critical that the samples from all cities in the study are analysed at these particular labs as one of the primary aims of the project is to provide environmental geochemical data that are harmonised and interoperable. In this way the soil quality from city to city can be compared objectively. A Geographic Information System map database will be used to gather, display and interpret data from the Dublin SURGE project. Analytical data will be statistically processed and digital geochemical maps of all elements will be produced. The data will be freely available to municipal authorities and other stakeholders.

Benefits of SURGE
It is hoped that the study will have benefits in the following areas:

  • Establishing baselines for environmental monitoring;
  • Identifying city areas possibly in need of environmental remediation;
  • Assisting authorities in setting soil environmental standards for Irish cities;
  • Contributing to more informed urban planning for both brownfield redevelopment of inner city areas and suburban development.
  • Assisting in compliance with EU Directives (Soil and Water) and national legislation protecting groundwater, soils, habitats etc.
  • Contributing to a better scientific understanding of pollutant accumulation and transport in urban soil environments.

Further information is available at

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