OSPE partners with the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors’ Association (GTSWCA) and Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) to determine the extent that excess soil management practices needlessly waste usable soil from excavations.
The United Nations has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils (IYS).
IYS 2015 aims to:
- Raise full awareness among civil society and decision makers about the profound importance of soil for human life
- Educate the public about the crucial role soil plays in food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and sustainable development
- Support effective policies and actions for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources
- Promote investment in sustainable soil management activities to develop and maintain healthy soils for different land users and population groups
- Strengthen initiatives in connection with the SDG process (Sustainable Development Goals) and Post-2015 agenda
- Advocate for rapid capacity enhancement for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels (global, regional and national)
Soil is a finite resource and essential for life to be sustained. Healthy soils play an important role in climate change mitigation by storing carbon (carbon sequestration) and decreasing global greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere (United Nations 2015). Beyond the obvious importance of soil to agriculture, it also has a significant role in infrastructure development. Infrastructure projects across Ontario create a large demand for soil through excavation and offsite disposal, and replacement for use as bedding and grading materials that infrastructure projects are placed on, in, or under.
In addition to the resource use of soil, infrastructure projects generate environmental impacts through GHG/particulates emissions, petroleum fuels consumption, traffic congestion from trucking (for both disposal and aggregate/granular fill replacement), water quality (siltation / runoff from stockpiles etc.). Related impacts also include noise pollution and infrastructure damage (road wear) from truck traffic and aggregate depletion from the unnecessary use of ‘virgin’ resources instead of beneficial reuse of excavated soils. Estimates are that 20 to 25 million cubic metres of excess soils are generated from these types of excavations each year in Ontario.
Proper management of excavated soil is a benefit both economically and for the environment. But is this excess soil being properly managed? The Ontario government document, Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices offers specific guidelines on alleviating some of the negative side effects of removing excess soil and ideal management practices. They serve as recommendations, however, and do not stipulate mandatory implementation.
As environmental stewards, engineers and other professionals working on infrastructure in Ontario should consider and advance Best Management Practices to conserve natural resources such as soil during development of various infrastructure projects. Proper planning should apply sustainable practices that consider economic, environmental, and societal impacts/benefits through the design, construction, and operation of infrastructure projects. OSPE and other associations represent a significant proportion of the designers, developers and builders of Ontario’s infrastructure and are well placed to address soil management issues in line with the IYS 2015 objectives.
In this regard, OSPE has partnered with the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors’ Association (GTSWCA) and Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) to conduct a survey to determine the extent that excess soil management practices needlessly waste usable soil from excavations. The goal is to demonstrate to industry and governments, especially municipalities, that following best practices by not transporting soil that can be re-used or recycled makes economic and environmental sense.
If you manage and/or makes decisions about excess soils, we want to hear from you! Our goal is to generate metrics based on data we gather from the survey to demonstrate the actual costs, both monetarily and environmentally, from needless removal and disposal of excess soils. In this way, we hope to inform stakeholders, especially municipalities, that it is in their best interest to heed the Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices and encourage better and more efficient management of this precious resource.