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  QUESTION: Lead paint in soil, 17 Apr 2003, State, Country unknown

I was wondering what to do about the soil that has been beneath a lead painted wall. To get rid of the lead that would no doubt penetrated into the soil, how far would I have to dig down and remove the soil to... or is there an alternative? If I have to what do i then do with the soil that I have removed?

Thank you for your help in this matter

EMAIL 2: Thank you Elizabeth for your response, and the information or links you gave have been useful, however none of them said how much soil should be removed...i.e. how deep should I dig, remove 6" or a foot or even more? Once again thank you for your help thus far and it would be deeply appreciated if you could answer this question for me as well.

kind regards

ANSWER: 18 Apr 2003


Dear Joel,

the US Environmental Protection Agency's 1994 interim guidelines for lead contaminated soil are very useful and can be found at and these guidelines are also mentioned in the gardening factsheet on our website at [LID 532].

What you are permitted to do with lead contaminated soil depends on where you are and in some places, it depends on whether the soil is from an industrial/commercial or educational/childcare/residential site. If you would like to let us know where you are, we can be more specific or you can simply phone your Council.

Yours sincerely


The depth of lead contaminated soil to be removed varies with the situation and sometimes simply topsoiling is appropriate as long as this doesn't disturb the growth of plants and doesn't cover the dampcourse. If removal of soil is necessary prior to topsoiling, in order to maintain the current surface level, the depth could be as little as an inch if you are basically just removing recently deposited paint flakes and paint dust from otherwise clean soil but if the lead contaminated material has been mixed into the soil or the soil has been contaminated previously and topsoiled and contaminated again, then the question is how much exposure is the most sensitive being likely to cause. For example, if young children or pets are likely to dig in the soil then the full dig depth should be clean soil. If you are growing leafy vegetables then only 3 inches is sufficient but for root vegetables, 6 inches would be better. If the soil is not going to be disturbed, then one to two inches of clean soil is sufficient. If the ground is to be used for lawn and you are planning to regular spiking or coring of the yard to aerate the soil and improve grass growth, then clean soil to the depth of the core is required, etc.

I assume you are in Australia. Is this correct? If so, you can call our freecall 1800626086 if you want to discuss a particular use of soil that I haven't covered.

Elizabeth O'Brien

See: US EPA fact sheet April 2001 Identifying Lead Hazards in Residential Properties

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