Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
As the Mineral Resources Program has increasingly ventured into geochemical baseline studies applied to environmental problems such as human and animal health, agricultural productivity, and pollution, it is becoming apparent that our soil geochemistry database is inadequate for most purposes. The risk assessment community has also made similar observations when working on issues related to contaminated land. Such studies require defining "background" concentrations for the elements or compounds of concern and appropriate data is generally either difficult to find or does not exist. The USGS has data for over 100,000 soil samples in its databases, but most of these samples were collected for very site-specific studies and were not collected according to uniform sampling and analytical protocol. Many other data exist. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture collected and analyzed 3,045 samples of surface soil from 307 different soil series. In addition, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has contracted with various state universities (e.g., Penn State and Univ. of Florida) to analyze samples within a given state. Other Federal agencies routinely collect and analyze soil samples. For example, the Dept. of Energy has data for areas surrounding many of its facilities and the EPA collects soil samples during its regulatory activities. In summary, there are many soil geochemical data sets that exist, but they not easily accessible or they may not be available in electronic format. In addition, metadata, if available, may not be compliant with appropriate Federal standards.
We proposed, in cooperation with the NRCS, to conduct an inventory of soil geochemical data sets available for the United States, accumulate available data sets along with metadata, and make these data available in electronic form through a web site. If a data set was not in digital form, we entered the data into a spreadsheet or database. If metadata was not available, or is not compliant, we generated the information in the appropriate format. For data that was available through existing web sites, we provided links to those sites. The ultimate goal was to establish a "one-stop-shopping" web site for anyone who needs soil geochemical data.