On January 28, 2012, Mónica Ramírez-Andreotta, a graduate trainee in the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP), held a community event to share the results of her dissertation project, Gardenroots. This citizen-science project was developed in response to concern in the Dewey-Humboldt, AZ community regarding metal contamination from the neighboring Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund site, and seeks to determine the metal content of vegetables grown in soils with elevated metals, such as arsenic and lead.
The "Results for Lunch" event was held in the Dewey-Humboldt Town Library, and provided an opportunity for citizen-scientist participants to "eat, discuss the garden results, and learn about soil and water chemistry, water treatment systems, and human health risk assessment." Forty community members (22 of the 25 households who participated in the study) were in attendance for the presentation and discussion.
Dr. Janick Artiola, UA SRP investigator and Extension Research Specialist, was on hand to provide his expertise in analytical, soil, and water chemistry. He gave a presentation that introduced water quality issues and treatment systems.
Ms. Ramírez-Andreotta gave a presentation detailing how the vegetable samples the participants collected were processed and analyzed. She provided a background on the concepts and underlying assumptions of risk and risk assessment, to provide a framework for the results she provided. Each household received a personalized report on their soil, water, and garden vegetable results, and were encouraged to follow along in their unique reports as she described how results were calculated. Results included guidelines for how many servings of vegetables participants could eat from their own garden within various target risk levels. Participants also received information with recommended practices for safe gardening and consumption of homegrown vegetables, providing them with practical tips for reducing exposure to metals in their gardens and homes. Gardenroots participants expressed gratitude for the study having been performed in response to their concerns, and for being able to increase their own knowledge of the scientific method and the issues involved.
For Ms. Ramírez-Andreotta, the most exciting part of the event was that it was not "information overload" for the participants, and the participants were active in the dialogue about the complex concepts involved in soil quality, risk assessment, and interpreting the results of the study. "I'm hoping the meeting and Gardenroots as a whole has increased the participant’s understanding of environmental issues found at Superfund sites like risk assessment and soil and water chemistry and quality," she says.
Thanks to Dewey-Humboldt Librarian Jeff Franklin for providing a venue for Gardenroots events and support for the project over the past year. Many thanks are also due to the town of Dewey-Humboldt for making Gardenroots possible! Says Ms. Ramírez-Andreotta, “This project would never have happened without their participation, patience, and continued support.”