The innocuous dump truck….slow and cumbersome as it traverses our roads and highways moving clean soil from a development site to a local farmer or a land development project that requires this precious resource.
The dump truck has become synonymous with positive economic growth and urban social capital. Under closer scrutiny, however, a dark cloud hovers over this iconic activity – what’s really in that dump truck?
Much of the soil that is excavated and loaded into dump trucks emanates from sites where the soil may be contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) like benzene, toluene and xylenes along with metals like lead, mercury and arsenic. These contaminants are the residue of early industrial economic activity and there is often little understanding of the long-term impact of ground disposal. Failed risk-management of underground fuel or alternative hydrocarbon storage tanks can result in an expensive problem for a prospective developer.
This is not an isolated problem. All over North America, contaminated soil adversely impacts the availability of arable land for farming and contaminates aquafers and water wells. Further, the human health risks can be significant.
Most jurisdictions have regulations in place to manage the process of identifying, characterizing and dealing with soil that does not meet clean criteria. Typically, the regulations will stipulate that contaminated soil must be deposited at a landfill only. Many good organizations adhere to the regulated processes and ensure their soil movement activity does not have a detrimental impact on the environment. However, other organizations will assign their soil-management task to a third-party contractor that may not adhere to the regulations or best-practice sustainability requirements. There can be significant economic benefit to disposing excavated materials, including contaminated soils, to less costly clean fill sites when it doesn’t belong there.
Ontario has established an Excess Soils Management Framework that will be rolled out into regulation over the next two years. This Framework is designed to address the movement of soil from its origin to it’s appropriate resting place and to hold organizations accountable for ensuring it minimizes any risk to human health. Further intended consequences of the Framework include beneficial re-use of clean soil, GHG emission reductions, less heavy traffic and peace between municipalities.
Automated tools have recently been developed that fully manage the movement of both clean and contaminated soil and that provide transparency and control over the process. The manual administration of this process that has historically existed using paper soil tickets and clipboards of trucking logs are ineffective methods with significant margin for error and a poor use of resources at a project site.
Today we all recognize the importance of knowing exactly what those iconic dump trucks are carrying and exactly where their soil ends up. All stakeholders have a responsibility around ensuring the sustainability of this precious cargo.