The scoop

The photograph of the Munsell soil color chart book pulled me up short. As I read Richard Schiffman’s piece, my thoughts bounced around from “wow, this is cool that soil scientists are getting profiled in the Times” to “New York has a soil brokerage clearinghouse so that good fill dirt from a construction site can be used to rebuild a wetland? That’s bananas—no, that’s brilliant!”

While the idea might seem obvious, Dr. [Dan] Walsh maintains that this is the first soil exchange anywhere in the world that is run by a city government. It is currently being watched by officials from New Orleans and Los Angeles as well as municipalities in Germany, China and Australia, which are considering implementing similar programs.

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“We’re essentially matchmakers,” Dr. Walsh said. “We don’t stockpile the soil, so both a donor and a recipient have to be ready at the same time. Our job is to coordinate the transfer.”

The NYC Urban Soils Institute has plans to establish a soil museum in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery—something for my to-see list in New York.

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