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Michael C. Rogers
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Date of Publication: 

UDC Offering Free Soil Testing

The Environmental Quality Testing Laboratory of the University of the District of Columbia is  providing one-time, free soil quality testing for D.C. residents and gardeners. The service will be offered on a first come, first served basis for a limited time throughout July and August as part of a USDA-grant, funded to analyze soil samples in home and community gardens around D.C. Apply here.

Urban agriculture is increasingly becoming a way of life for city residents; therefore, it is important to test the soil quality of your garden for three main reasons. First, soil can contain contaminants that pose risk to human health. Second, we may not have enough information about the level of contamination in our soil. Finally, testing our soil give us valuable information to improve your garden and promote healthy soil.

The analysis offered by the Environmental Quality Testing Laboratory will measure macro nutrients and environmental trace metals such as lead and arsenic. Most soil testing is limited in scope due to cost, so this offer is especially beneficial to D.C.’s gardeners, as it provides complete information about the level of trace metals in their gardens while reducing costs. Once the Environmental Quality Lab has received NELAC certification, it will be prepared to offer a similar fee-based service in the future. At that time, D.C. residents will no longer have to send their soil out of state. 

“We receive several inquiries a week as to whether we offer this service, and we’ve always had to recommend out of state laboratories,” explained Dr. Tolessa Deksissa, Director of UDC’s Water Resources Research Institute, Professional Science Master’s (PSM) Program and Environmental Quality Testing Laboratory. “In time, when we offer soil testing at cost, being located in the District along with our use of innovative techniques to measure specific environmental contaminants will help to make services more cost effective.”

Interested D.C. residents are encouraged to apply. Graduate and undergraduate research students have already begun collecting samples. Once your application is reviewed, you will be contacted by WRRI to schedule a sampling collection time.

“It is very exciting to offer this opportunity to the residents of D.C.,” said Dr. Sabine O’Hara, College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES). “As an urban landgrant institution, we are thrilled to be able to offer soil testing service to our community.” 

Located on UDC’s Van Ness Campus, the Environmental Quality Testing Lab was constructed to help District residents have a convenient and affordable way of testing water and soil for environmental contaminants and other impurities and to serve as an unbiased monitor of surface, ground and municipal water quality in D.C., helping to protect water resources and human health. The lab has state-of-the-art equipment that can be applied to the analysis of chemical and biological water quality parameters in soil, water and wastewater, and also the research capacity to measure the existing environmental conditions and identify alternative solutions to address environmental problems.

The Water Resources Research Institute is part of the CAUSES Center for Sustainable Development. Funded by USGS, the Institute provides seed grants to innovative water-related projects that identify problems of and contribute solutions to DC water issues. For more information on CAUSES, visit For questions, please contact Dr. Deksissa at or at 202.274.5273.  We look forward to receiving your application.

About the University of the District of Columbia

An HBCU, urban land-grant, and the only public university in the nation's capital, The University of the District of Columbia is committed to a broad mission of education, research and community service.  Established by abolitionist Myrtilla Miner in 1851, the University of DC offers Associate's, Bachelor's and Master's Degrees and a host of workplace development services designed to create opportunities for student success.  The University is comprised of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental SciencesCollege of Arts and Sciences,  School of Business and Public AdministrationSchool of Engineering and Applied Sciences, a Community College and the David A. Clarke School of Law. To learn more, visit University of the District of Columbia is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action institution. Minorities, women, veterans and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply. For a full version of the University's EO Policy Statement, please visit: University of the District of Columbia is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education - 3624 Market Street - Philadelphia, PA 19104 - 267.284.5000.