UPA and water pollution

The possibility of UPA production presenting a hazard to natural waters depends upon the kind of management, and also the local ‘environmental vulnerability,’ of natural waters. For example, significant areas where an economically major aquifer is overlain by soils of high or intermediate permeability occurs within both Greater London (NRA, 1994) and throughout north and east Kent (NRA, 1994). Allotment sites in the Ashford area are over aquifers from which public water supplies are drawn. Whilst the risk from heavy metals is dis­cussed below, major risks to waters (both ground­water and from surface runoff) could arise from excessive use of pesticides and from nitrogen fertilisers, both artificial and organic. The polluting effects of urban cultivated areas adjacent to watercourses and effects on the underlying hydro­geology are potentially important, but largely ignored.

image138

Table 20.1. Species, varieties of vegetables and their yields obtained from allotment holders in Ashford and Wye, Kent

(Perez-Vazquez, 2000)

Vegetables (varieties italicised in brackets)

Ashford, Kent (1999) lbs (kgs)

Wye, Kent (1999) lbs (kgs)

Wye, Kent (2000) lbs (kgs)

Average yield 250 m2 lbs (kgs)

Potatoes

Early (Maris bard;

65 (29.5)

40 (18.1)

60 (27.2)

57 (25.9)

Pentland Javelin) Second early and main (Wilja, Maris peer; Pentland crown; Nadine; Desiree)

Beans (Pots)

180 (81.7)

200 (90.8)

280 (127.1)

220 (99.8)

Broad (The Sutton)

25 (11.3)

80 (36.3)

52.5 (23.8)

Runner (Enorma;

77 (34.9)

40 (18.1)

10 (4.5)

42 (19.2)

Desire)

French (Daisy) Onions

25 (11.3)

56 (25.4)

16 (7.3)

32 (14.5)

White (Bedford

68.5 (31.1)

20 (9.1)

30 (13.7)

39.5 (17.9)

champion; Dutch

yellow; Ailsa Craig)

14 (6.4)

18 (8.2)

16 (7.3)

Spring (Paris; Barletta)

9 (4.1)

53 (24.0)

31 (14.1)

Brussels sprouts (Cascade F1; Widgeon)

35 (15.8)*

20 (9.0)

55 (12.4)

Cabbage (Celtic; Jupiter)

55 (25.0)

30 plants

10 plants

15 plants (24.9)

Carrots

(St Valery; James Scarlet)

92 (41.7)

30 (13.6)

5 (2.3)

42 (19.1)

Swede (Marian; Purple top; Magnificent)

7.2 (3.3)

14 (6.4)

5.4 (2.5)

8.9 (4.0)

Beetroot (Detroit 2; Monodet)

24 (10.9)

8 (3.6)

6.5 (3.0)

12.8 (5.8)

Cauliflower (Canberra; Snowball)

50 (22.7)

20 plants

35 (15.9)

Table 20.1 (continued)

Vegetables (varieties italicised in brackets)

Ashford, Kent (1999) lbs (kgs)

Wye, Kent (1999) lbs (kgs)

Wye, Kent (2000) lbs (kgs)

Average yield 250 m2 lbs (kgs)

Lettuce (Little gem; Dolly;Salad bowl)

80 plants

45 plants

62 plants

Leek

(Argenta;

Catalina)

27 plants

17 plants

35 plants

26 plants

Peas

(Rarly

Onwardand Hurst Green shaft)

24.5 (11.1)

18 (8.2)

3.5 (1.6)

15.3 (6.9)

Radish

(Scarlet globe;

Prinz rutin; Sparkler)

6 bunches

20 bunches

6 (2.7)

11 bunches

Tomato

(Marmande; Alicante; Golden Sunrise)

32 (14.5)

24 (10.9)

27 (12.3)

27.6 (12.5)

1lb = 0.45359 kg; * = estimated yield available only.

Soil contamination

Contaminated land is usually defined as ‘land that contains substances which, when present in suffi­cient quantities or concentrations, are likely to cause harm, directly or indirectly, to people, to the environment, or, on occasion, to other targets’ (Garnett, 1996c). If land is sufficiently contami­nated, handling soil, or breathing vapours emitted from such land, or eating contaminated food grown on such land can pose significant health risks. The key issue is that much urban land remains unsur­veyed and potential practitioners of UPA are there­fore unaware of risks, real or potential. In some situations, concerns about land contamination may dissuade people from starting UPA. Some surveys have already suggested that lead (Pb) concentra­tions in garden-grown crops can be higher than in rural areas in England (Davies et al., 1983), and in Germany (Alt et al., 1982). However, not all results are alarmist: a study in the Netherlands suggested that cadmium (Cd) and Pb levels in soils and crops from allotments were more typical of national levels (van Lune, 1987). Moir (1985) found that seven out of eight allotment sites in Greater London were contaminated with Pb, that the soil metal content decreased with distance from central London and that spinach accumulated significantly higher Pb, zinc (Zn) and Cd levels than lettuce and radish. In Britain, legislation from 1 January 1986 to reduce permitted Pb concentrations in petrol from 0.40 to 0.15 g/l, has clearly led to a reduction in Pb concentrations in air (Denton, 1988). However, there appears to have been limited assessment of levels in urban soils and crops since then. A pro­gramme of urban land assessment therefore needs to be organised to quantify both the risk of land contamination and that of drainage water.