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Assessing Soil and Water Quality and Evaluating Mitigation Strategies

Melbourne, Florida

Featured image for the project, Assessing Soil and Water Quality and Evaluating Mitigation Strategies

Photo Courtesy of Camille Hadley

This project aims to assess the quality of the soil and groundwater of a community located within an industrial zone.  This includes data collection, identifying toxic substances, evaluating remediation and mitigation techniques and their impact on the soil and water, and sharing the results.  The goals of the project are to reduce stormwater nutrients leaving the community and entering into the Indian River Lagoon, restore soil and groundwater quality through implementation of restorative community gardens, and engage the community and local youth throughout the project.  Ultimately, the design of the community gardens will reduce food insecurity, improve local air quality, amend and restore community soil, and improve the overall environmental health of the community and its residents. 

Description

Background 

Melbourne, Florida is a town located within Brevard County, north of Palm Bay, and adjacent to the Indian River Lagoon.  The location of interests for the community gardens are south of downtown Melbourne, in a predominantly Black neighborhood. This neighborhood is represented by Little Growers Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to youth empowerment and leadership development through urban agriculture and permaculture. The region is recognized as a USDA designated food desert, and as a response, Little Growers Inc. addresses food insecurity within the community and promotes sustainable practices. In the process of expanding the community gardens, there is a need to understand how industrial zoning has impacted the soil and groundwater quality, as the two proposed locations for the gardens are near chemical plants, brownfields, superfund sites, and waste transfer stations.   

 

Project 

The priorities for Little Growers Inc. and the community are to ensure that toxic substances are mitigated or eliminated through soil and water remediation techniques in order to prevent public health hazards, improve air quality through the implementation of native plants, engage the community and promote youth leadership throughout the mitigation process, and continue to respond to food insecurity.  Little Growers Inc. has chosen to collaborate with Thriving Earth Exchange on this project due to past success in responding to stormwater flooding in the community and a desire to obtain data-driven results to use in advocating for local and state funds to continue the implementation of mitigation techniques, ensure soil and groundwater health, and expand urban agricultural projects within the community.  The community is currently in the process of collecting and characterizing data samples of the soil for the two proposed sites. 

 

Project Outputs 

To achieve the goals of this project, the community would like to collect soil and groundwater samples at the two proposed sites.  The community plans to characterize the soil through in-house testing and through collaboration with University of Florida Analytical Services Laboratory.  For groundwater testing, the community intends to sample residential wells throughout the community and identify practices or institutions that will allow for the characterization of the groundwater.  For both the soil and groundwater, the types and amounts of toxic substances will also need to be identified.  After initial sampling has been completed, the community will implement bioremediation techniques and low impact development practices to mediate or eliminate toxic substances and mitigate stormwater flooding.  Soil and groundwater sampling and testing will be repeated to evaluate the efficacy of the mediation techniques.  The results from both the initial and final soil and groundwater testing will be published in a community report and shared with local and state political stakeholders.  Throughout the process of this project, Little Growers Inc. has partnered with Beyond Organic Design to engage local youth and community members in soil and groundwater sampling and testing and the implementation of mediation techniques as education and maintenance of these sustainable practices is a priority for the community.   

 

Timeline 

Soil testing is expected to be completed by mid-December 2021.  Groundwater testing is expected to be completed by mid-January 2022. 

Project Team

Community Lead 

Headshot of Camille Hadley

Camille Hadley

Camille is the Co- Founder and Executive Director of Little Growers Inc. in Brevard County, FL.  When Camille’s home flooded during Hurricane Irma, she joined Higher Ground.  Camille has been a member of the Leadership Council for Anthropocene Alliance  since 2019.  She is one of 22 grassroots leaders selected for the Sierra Club and Women’s Earth Alliance 2019 U.S. Grassroots Accelerator for Women Environmental Leaders.  In 2020, Camille was invited back to Sierra Club and Women’s Earth Alliance to serve as a mentor to the 2020 U.S. Grassroots Accelerator for Women Environmental Leaders. 

 

Community Scientist

Keith Wilkins headshot

Keith Wilkins

Principal, Keith Wilkins & Associates

Pensacola, Florida

Keith retired after 41 years of private environmental and public administration service as Pensacola’s City Administrator.  He has now opened a small consulting practice offering for profit and pro-bono services to select clients supporting community advocacy, environmental issues and public affairs. He previously served as Escambia County’s Director of their Community and Environment Department where he greatly expanded environmental, community redevelopment and neighborhood support programs.  Keith also has served as a Regional Vice President and Manager of two environmental and Engineering consulting firms and as a Manager with the KPMG Environmental Management Practice in Miami, Florida conducting environmental cost recovery, merger and acquisitions and audit engagements.  He currently serves on the Florida Brownfields Association Board of Directors, and previously served on the University of West Florida Earth and Environmental Science Department Advisory Council. Gulf Coast Diplomacy Council, the Governor’s Council for Sustainable Florida, Florida Green Finance Authority Board of Supervisors, and as President of the Florida Local Environmental Resource Agencies.  He was named Environmental Professional of the Year by the NW FL Chapter of the Florida Association of Environmental Professionals, has twice received the Government Conservation Award by the Escambia Soil and Water Board, received the Francis M. Weston Audubon Chapter Government Award, was named to the Honor Role of the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation for environmental justice advocacy and received Department of Interior recognition for work in Habitat Conservation of the Perdido Key Beach Mouse.  Mr. Wilkins is a 1979 graduate of the Environmental Studies Program at the University of West Florida.

 

Partners

Sabrina Chapa Headshot

Sabrina Chapa 

Anthropocene Alliance Program Manager 

Sabrina Chapa (she/they) is a Xicana from the frontlines of so-called South Texas (Karankawa land). She is a proud “Earth Protector at the intersections of just practice, biocultural ecology, and radical transformation”. She got her M.S. in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management with a focus on Ecological Justice. She’s also a co-researcher with the Tishman Environment and Design Center and volunteers for her community. 

Monica Ibacache Headshot

Monica Ibacache 

Beyond Organic Design Founder and Executive Director 

Lead Permaculture Consultant 

A native of Chile, Monica is a New York City–based community organizer, sustainability educator, and ecological designer since 2007. An avid gardener as a small child with her grandparents in Chile, she rekindled her passion for growing food as an adult while living in southeast Alaska.  Monica is committed to improving food systems while advancing social and environmental justice globally.  She has dedicated her life to working with diverse and marginalized communities in education and local development in the U.S. and abroad. Monica has advanced certifications in Permaculture Design and Teaching and serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute of Permaculture for Children (IPEC), Permaculture Institute of North America (PINA), the International Permaculture Convergence Committee (IPCC), the Indoor Gardening Society (IGSA), and the Permaculture Association of the Northeast (PAN). 

 

 

Community Science Fellow 

Taylor McKie Headshot

Taylor McKie is a Ph.D. Candidate in Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego. Taylor studies submesoscale dynamics in the upper ocean and climate change impacts and is advised by Dr. Andrew Lucas and Dr. Jennifer Mackinnon in the Multi-scale Ocean Dynamics Lab. She is also a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and has attained a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Georgia Tech. Taylor is active on campus as she advocates for climate action through the Graduate and Professional Student Association Climate Action and Policy Committee at UCSD and supports the needs of fellow Black graduate students as a board member for the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association at UCSD. With a passion for people and the environment, Taylor hopes to pursue a career in supporting communities through climate change adaptation and increasing their resiliency through policy and advocacy. 

 

Collaborating Organization(s)