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Environmental Testing on Landbank Owned Land (vacant, residential)


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The Hamilton County Landbank received a request from a local university to perform soil testing on a few vacant lots under Landbank ownership. The main focus of the testing is lead; I am awaiting response whether additional elements will be included.

If we move forward with a license agreement to allow testing, are there any liabilities or concerns we should be aware of? If contaminants are found on the vacant land, are we required to disclose this to buyers?

In general, are there best practices recommended for vacant land? - particularly if the lot’s planned use is edible gardening.



This topic was modified 2 years ago by Amy_HamiltonCounty
2 Answers

Great questions, Amy!  The presence of lead in gasoline for so long contributes to lead in the soil, even today.  It's inevitable.  It may be smart to identify a variety of different kinds of parcels of land to do testing on - not just vacant lots.  What about properties with an abandoned structure too?  I am confident that the testers are going to find lead and that may make people nervous.  So, the question really should be lead that is higher or lower in concentration than the general contamination present in Hamilton Co?

The legal issues should be explored with your counsel.  On the science front, we have found our OSU Extension to be the most expert resource to think about soil, plantings on urban vacant land, and best practices in this area.  Worth your time to reach out to the Hamilton OSU Extension if you can.

David Mann


Hi Amy, 

We have worked with a number of universities to perform soil testing on vacant lots, properties with structures and recently demolished lots to see what kind of lead levels we were dealing with in the City of Warren. As David mentioned, every lot had lead with the highest concentration of lead being on the properties with homes on them. We did disclose this information to the adjacent property owners and the buyers of the properties, and it did not affect the buyers interest in the properties as their intentions were for yard expansions.  This is something you should run by your counsel as well to get their opinion on any potential liabilities they see. 

After we did a number of soil test across the city, we applied and received an Environmental Justice Grant through the EPA to put together some educational documents and outreach material around the hazards of lead. Through the process we created a website and a handful of educational documents, including doorknockers we put on all adjacent properties to our demolitions, a yard sign we put at our demolition sites prior to work commencing, a vacant land reuse document and a document specific to community gardens and urban ag. I was only able to attach one document here, the community garden document, but you can view all of our materials at www.leadsafedemo.org

If you have any questions or would like me to email you the other documents let me know and I will send them over!

This post was modified 2 years ago 4 times by Shawn Carvin

Shawn Carvin

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