Why Do I Have to Test Soil?
SafetyThe most important reason is for the Safety of on-site construction and development workers, and the as well as the surrounding public is the primary reason developers are required by law to complete a soil characterization. While some chemicals can be detected through visual observation or smell, many chemicals cannot be detected unless they are analyzed in a lab. Certain petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, metals, and pesticides are carcinogenic (cancer-causing), and may produce acute and/or chronic effects to human health. During soil disturbing activities When disturbing the soil through excavation or transportation on a job site, these chemicals may be kicked up as dust and inhaled by on-the-ground personnel over the duration of an entire workday. If a strong wind is present, the dust may drift off-site and potentially expose sensitive receptors such as hospitals, schools, or daycare facilities. Regulatory agencies often require dust mitigation measures, dust monitoring, and personal protection equipment at construction sites to protect the health of all individuals involved. Negligence and failure to mitigate these dangers can lead to litigation and damage companies’ reputations. When soil testing is done haphazardly or not at all, you put your team and your brand value at risk.
TransportationSoil also needs to be tested to determine where it can be transported. Another reason to test soil is to determine where the soil can be transported. If the soil is to be disposed of as waste, there are limitations as to which landfill may accept it. In order to determine which classification applies to the soil, extensive laboratory testing is required.
- Soil that is designated as Class II contains concentrations of contaminants that are below hazardous levels. Class III soil is considered non-hazardous municipal solid waste and may be transported and reused at another job location, which may offset some costs.
- Soil that is hazardous per California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 22, but does not exceed federal regulations is considered Class I hazardous waste and may be accepted at only two locations in the state of California.
- Chemical concentrations that exceed federal regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) are considered the most hazardous and may be subject to additional treatment methodologies (i.e., incineration) and are limited to acceptance at select facilities in the United States.
Soil Testing ProcessThe number of representative soil samples to be analyzed depends on the volume of soil that is being removed. A commonly referenced sampling schedule can be found in Information Advisory: Clean Imported Fill Material published by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) in 2001; however, it is common that a landfill may request additional samples. The soil samples are then transported to a state-certified laboratory and analyzed for a minimum of:
- Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH)
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
- Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOC)
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons/Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH/PNA)
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB)
- Organochlorine (OC) Pesticides
Soil Testing MistakesCommon mistakes that occur during soil characterization include:
- an insufficient number of samples
- samples collected at incorrect depths and/or locations
- missing analyte parameters.
Prioritize Soil Disposal to Save CostsSoil disposal is a critical component of almost every development project and is frequently under-budgeted in cost estimates. Unfortunately, under-budgeting your soil process could actually send you over budget in the long run. The revelation of hazardous soil material can add hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and severely jeopardize a project’s finances. Performing soil characterization in the early stages of development is key to avoiding costly mistakes and delays in a busy timeline. Ready to get testing? Contact Essel at 1-800-595-7616, or request a meeting with one of our consultants to see how Essel can partner with you for your soil testing needs.