Suds: Send Us your Dirt from Sandy

Principle Investigators:

Alison Keimowitz, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Vassar College, Poughkeepise, NY
Neil Fitzgerald, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY


On Monday October 29, storm Sandy hit the east coast with surge of up to 13 feet of seawater. Many thousands of people are affected by flood waters which brought sediment (mud, sand, and dirt) into homes and businesses.  While the initial response must be to support those directly suffering from the aftermath the storm, clean-up of the flood waters, destroyed homes and deposited sediment is a necessary next step. We are interested in learning what chemicals may be present in this sediment and in the flood waters, and we need your help! We are asking people who are recovering from Sandy to collect samples and send them to us so that we can analyze them.

Study Objectives

In this study we are asking citizens to send us soil and sediment samples from areas of flooding in New York, particularly in or near residences. The collected samples will be analyzed for a variety of organic and inorganic contaminants including heavy metals, organic compounds from gasoline and other fuels, pesticides and other industrial effluents.

How can I help?

Do you live in (or have legal access to) of areas of New York that suffered flooding from the storm, for example Lower Manhattan, Far Rockaway, and Staten Island? All we need is for you to collect sediment that was deposited during the storm in or near to a residence.

How to sample sediment (dirt): take a clean container, like an empty water bottle, clean tupperware, ziploc bag, etc, and fill with wet sediment. Pour off any water sitting on top. We’ll take any amount, but something the size of about half a sandwich is ideal. Please label the container (or put something in the box with it) with the date and time, the location (address, if it was taken inside or outside, any other description), and your contact information in case we have questions. Alternatively fill out this form and send it with your sample.  Thank you!!!

Send samples to:

Alison Keimowitz
Chemistry Department
Vassar College
124 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604

Study Outcomes

We plan to post major results from the study on this website. More detailed results will also be published in a scientific journal. Any severe contamination found will be immediately reported to the appropriate authority.


We plan to raise funds for this project through private contributions using the crowd funding site Please visit the site periodically for updates and consider donating to the project.

About Us:

Alison Spodek Keimowitz is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Vassar College Chemistry Department. She earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of Columbia University in 2006 and had a Fulbright Fellowship in the Microbiology Department at the University of Tel Aviv thereafter.

Ms. Keimowitz’s research focuses on the behaviors of contaminants in the environment, particularly arsenic, manganese, and other redox- sensitive metals.

Neil Fitzgerald is the Assistant Dean of Science at Marist College and an Associate Professor of Chemistry. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachussetts in 1999. He joined Marist in 2001 after a working for a year at Barnard College.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s research interests involve improvement of atomic analysis methods including the use of flow-through and microwave energy. He is also interested in the analysis of chemical contaminants in the environment.

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About Pratt Disaster Resilience Network

Grassroots action and long-term planning for disaster resilience for all.

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