City confirms safety of SA Food Bank garden soil

Studies done on potentially contaminated dirt from convention center construction project

SAN ANTONIO – City of San Antonio officials said Friday that despite the fact that potentially contaminated dirt was dumped near the San Antonio Food Bank, the soil and vegetables at the food bank are safe.

District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez announced the results of a test conducted by Southwest Research Institute on the San Antonio Food Bank's vegetable garden, which grows crops to feed those in need.

"I'm very pleased to tell you that the results provided to the city this week confirm that the Food Bank's garden soil is safe," Lopez said. "And, the vegetables are safe for public consumption."

The city paid for a $7,000 independent study that focused solely on the soil and vegetables at the food bank, after reports that it dumped potentially contaminated dirt near that Food Bank.

The dirt came from the construction site of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center expansion project downtown.

"This particular study, since we're talking about food consumption, looked at 23 different minerals," said Dr. Vincent Nathan, of Metro Health.

The dirt from the convention center construction site has been tested twice. The latter study showed that the soil was safe.

"It really would not cause any problem to you," said Dr. Shawn Varney, a medical toxicologist and emergency physician, who was not affiliated with the studies. "Unless you plan on eating a two-pound bowl of dirt every day, because that's basically how much dirt would include even the tiniest amount of the lead which was slightly high."

Still, before the release of the independent study on Friday, the San Antonio Food Bank took precautions.

"The Food Bank distributes a lot of food from a lot of different sources," said Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper. "The foods that come off the crops there represents 1 percent of our total volume. It's a meaningful 1 percent, but we put that product in quarantine. We did not distribute it until we could find out if we had an issue or not."

Although Friday's study shows that the soil at the San Antonio Food Bank is safe, Lopez said the city is still waiting on results of a third test on the convention center dirt that was moved.

These tests are being conducted by consultants overseen by the city's health department.

Lopez said the results should be complete within the next three weeks.

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