Ensuring Consistent Soil Management Practices for Railroad Projects

Ensuring Consistent Soil Management Practices for Railroad Projects


Railroad construction activities can range from new track installation to railyard development. Similar to most construction projects, it is common for each project to require a net import of clean fill or a net export of soil, depending on differences between the existing and proposed surface grades. As a means to reduce potential environmental liability, it is imperative that imported soil is qualified as free of contaminants and exported soil is managed properly depending upon the presence of potential contaminants. Liability exposure could result if contaminated soils were used as import material or if export soil was sent off-site for reuse by others.

An existing railroad client approached Antea Group to assist with the development of a soil management program (SMP) for construction projects by their engineering department. The objective of an SMP is to reduce environmental liability and create a uniform practice for management of soils during construction activities.


Given the wide range of construction projects, the SMP needed to provide an appropriate level of structure while maintaining a degree of flexibility needed to account for site-specific conditions. Antea Group sought input from representatives of various stakeholders, including the client's engineering department and their contracted design engineers, the environmental department, and construction managers in operations. Additionally, input was obtained from track construction firms to ensure that practices outlined in the SMP did not have detrimental effects on construction progress.

A programmatic approach was incorporated into the SMP development, ensuring a uniform and consistent practice was incorporated into all construction projects.                


Key components of the SMP include a flexible soil sampling plan that takes into account land use and risk, collection of representative soil samples for analytical testing, and a streamlined summary report for the engineering department. A ballast evaluation was also conducted to determine if slag ballast was present as a potential source of metals contamination. In cases where soil impacts were reported in excess of applicable regulatory limits, a framework was developed to assist in the development of a remediation strategy, including contaminant modeling, supplemental sampling for delineation of impacts, waste characterization, and evaluation of disposal and treatment alternatives.

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