These Scientists Want Your Hurricane Dirt

12.26.12 Andy Cush

In an effort to better understand the effects of Sandy flooding in some of New York City’s most polluted waterways, two scientists would like you to send them your dirt.  Neil Fitzgerald of Marist College and Alison Spodek Keimowitz of Vassar college are asking New Yorkers in the Rockaways and around the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek–highly toxic superfund sites, both–to collect any mud or sediment that may have entered their homes during the storm and send it in to be processed. They hope that with help from ordinary citizens, they’ll be able to understand just how chemically harmful the flooding was. The project’s cutesy name: SUDS, or Send Us Your Dirt from Sandy.

“The Superfund sites have got contaminants going back many years that have become kind of hidden,” said Dr. Fitzgerald, describing hazardous chemicals known as PCBs present in the waterways. “If they’re undisturbed they don’t do too much harm, but the question is whether the storm suspended some of that stuff.”

In addition to PCBs, the scientists will test for “cadmium, lead and chromium and probably arsenic and mercury.” And because the trials will be expensive, they’ve set up a crowdfunding system to go along with the crowdsourced soil samples.  “The idea here is to get as many samples as possible, so the way to do this is to give up a little bit of control,” said Fitzgerald.

Interested parties can check out the project here.

(Photo: Roman Iakoubtchik/Flickr)