For concerns about whether the soil quality is suitable for growing produce for human consumption, your best course of action would be to contact your local Cooperative Extension System (CES). They can help with questions that pertain to gardening, provides information on soil quality in your community, and provide soil testing resources.
For an analysis of specific contaminants in your soil the following resources may be helpful:
- USDA Soil Quality Test Kit provides information on a procedure for a 12 on-farm tests, an interpretive section for each test, data recording sheets, and a section on how to build your own kit.
- The North American Proficiency Testing Program (NAPT) Exit is a national program that provide test results and interpretation of the soil.
- Alternative Soil Testing Laboratories Exit allows to search for laboratories by state, by product category, or by keyword search.
- State Departments of Agriculture
- eXtension.org Exit - eXtension is an interactive learning environment delivering the best, most researched knowledge from the best land-grant university minds across America. eXtension connects knowledge consumers with knowledge providers.
- A Soil Health Card is used to make rapid checks on changes in soil quality within a field.
Additional reading and resources that may be of interest:
- Steps to Creating a Community Garden or Expand Urban Agriculture at a Brownfields Site
- Brownfields and Urban Agriculture: Interim Guidelines for Safe Gardening Practices is a document containing the input of experts from academia, state and local governments, and nonprofits on how to safely grow food on former brownfield sites.
- Urban Agriculture Frequent Questions
- American Community Garden Association Exit provides a best practice top ten series about starting and preserving a garden, as well as gardening for kids and a number of resources and tools related to starting and operating gardens.