Just in time for gardening season, the Brooklyn College Urban Soils Lab has teamed with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation to publish research on finding an affordable solution to urban garden soil pollution.

Their study is aimed at trying to help remove the health risk from exposure to contaminants, largely lead, in garden soils. What they found is that covering contaminated soil—much of it from the days when gasoline and paint contained lead—with fresh soil produces chemically-safe vegetables. It’s a practice that many of the city’s gardeners may have already taken up, but most have purchased soil from stores. This study proves the efficacy of using a new soil mix produced from waste materials that are abundantly available in New York City.

Zhongqi “Joshua” Cheng, co-founder of the Brooklyn College based NYC Urban Soils Institute and an associate professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department, called the findings a “significant step toward finally solving the soil contamination problem in New York City and beyond.”

The research, published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, and was authored by Cheng and Ph.D. student Sara Perl Egendorf. The two were also co-authors of a related article published in the Journal of Environmental Management, which found that using waste material from construction sites in Brooklyn and Queens to engineer soil, and combining it with compost, can provide the foundation for a long-term solution to urban soil pollution. The researchers are working with agencies and community partners such as the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and NYC Compost Projects, among others, to try to build an infrastructure for getting the soil out to local gardeners.

“We’d like this to exist as a soil distribution network,” says Egendorf, adding that the scholars are working with another consortium called Legacy Lead to build up the network.

Just this week, Mayor Bill deBlasio announced a new initiative to recycle clean soil from local construction projects to distribute to community-based organizations, exactly the kind of model that the researchers would like to see more of. Their research was also featured in a New York Times article.

“My belief is that we have the material and potential to cover the entire city with clean soil mix within a couple years,” says Cheng. “It’s very promising that the city agencies and communities are getting on the same page. Everyone looks to New York City as a model, so if we can get this right, we have an opportunity to have an impact on the world.”