From the Desk of Nancy Shemet,
Environmental Scientist

June 28, 2021

Environmental Scientist in a hard hat holding a jar of soil sample at a construction or drilling site.


“So… why exactly are you digging in the dirt?”

As an environmental scientist, “digging in the dirt” is all part of a day’s work. (Although the more professional terminology is “soil sampling”.)

Soil is so much more complex than people realize. It’s teeming with life! Bacteria, worms, fungi, and insects all call soil home. Not only does soil create its own ecosystem, its quite literally the backbone of our society. Ecological systems, environmental systems, and even human developments would not exist if it weren’t for the soil beneath our feet.

Which is why we need to protect it. And that’s where we come in!

Environmental, animal, and human health all depend on the health of our soils. Soil acts as a transportation highway for contaminants as well, which exist as solids, liquids, and vapors. These many forms of contamination can leech into the groundwater that we drink and invade the houses in which we live. To avoid such occurrences, we need to be aware of what is in the soil by way of sampling.

Each sampling job is different, and primarily depend on a) what the client is looking for; b) where the sampling site is; and c) the history of the sampling site itself. Once we know what the primary concern may be and where to look for it, it’s time to dig. A hand auger is most typically used to reach certain sampling depths, although if an excavator is available, that can be used to save some time. We then take a representative sample with our (gloved) hands, and place the soil directly into sample jars. Once all of the samples have been collected, they are transported to a lab for proper analysis. The analysis period can take up to ten days, depending on what contaminants are being tested for. Upon completion, full analytical results are then sent to the environmental scientist. The results are reviewed, and hopefully everything comes back clean! Sometimes we’re not so fortunate, and we then need to determine remedial measures that must be implemented for the soil to be considered “clean”. In the not-so-fortunate case, this process of sampling, remediating, and sampling again, continues until all contamination is below acceptable levels as determined by the governing regulatory agency.

Soil sampling is an integral part of any human development, as we want to keep our environment as healthy as possible, so WE can stay healthy!

I hope this post helped you understand the basics of soil sampling and its importance. If you have any questions, including pricing and applicability, please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone at 631-234-2220, or by my email at [email protected]