Although many alternative remediation technologies have emerged during the past several years, soil removal and disposal remains an accepted practice for eliminating petroleum contaminated soil. The alternative technologies emerged, in part, because large soil excavations are generally cost prohibitive and can be disruptive to the daily operations of a business. Under BUSTR’s old corrective action rule interim remedial actions and under their new corrective action rule interim response actions, many times involve the removal of soil from the source area. 

Only soils removed and disposed that are documented to be above site-specific action levels are eligible for reimbursement. Therefore sampling data is needed to document that all soils that are removed and disposed are above the appropriate action levels.

To protect reimbursement rights, owners should be sure their consultant/contractor performs and documents appropriate field soil screening/sampling activities, how the sampling data is used when determining the amount of soil to excavate and how the data relates to the established site-specific action levels.  The following are suggested guidelines for documenting the soil contamination levels:

 Small Excavations 

Recently collected soil boring samples may be sufficient for documenting contamination levels for soil excavations of approximately 100 tons or less. An example would be a limited over-excavation to remove a “hot spot”. In these situations a site map should be provided showing the locations of the samples, concentration levels, and the dimensions and depth of the excavation.

 Soil Screening/Segregation

For larger volumes of soils, a procedure of field screening the soils while the excavation progresses should be followed. Assuming the property is large enough, the practice of segregation of soils into separate stockpiles for those above and below the action levels should be employed. Owners should make sure their consultants provide the field procedures followed or to be followed while screening/segregating soil to the Board in a claim or when seeking cost pre-approval.

In many cases the use of a mobile laboratory can be cost-effective. The soil screening process uses both an organic vapor analyzer meter (OVA) (e.g., PID, FID, etc.) and the mobile laboratory in conjunction with one another. The OVA meter readings of soil samples first indicate where the actionable levels are suspected and then selected samples are analyzed by the mobile laboratory to verify the concentrations of chemicals of concern. Use of a mobile lab also provides a shorter a short turn-around time when evaluating the disposition of stockpiles. If one truckload of soil is prevented from disposal, a mobile lab pays for itself. 

Direct Loading of Soils 

For sites that do not have sufficient space to allow large stockpiles, the soil screening procedure with a mobile lab becomes particularly important in documenting the soil contamination levels. Small temporary stockpiles can be created when screening data indicate concentrations above the action levels may exist. A representative sample of the stockpile can then be analyzed by the mobile lab to confirm the concentrations of chemicals of concern. The quick turn-around provided by the mobile lab versus a standard lab can prevent trucking the soils for disposal only to find out later that soil disposal was not required because analyticals were below action levels. 

Multiple Excavations

When more than one (separate) area is being excavated, creating stockpiles is recommended for each excavation. Keeping the soils separate according to each excavation area is important in documenting the volumes of soils disposed/treated from each excavation area. The action levels for each excavation will be used to determine if the costs for soils removed from each excavation are reimbursable. This information speeds the claim review process. 

When Free Product Exists

If soils are saturated with free product, analytical data are not necessary to demonstrate contamination levels for reimbursement to be obtained. However, once saturated soils are removed and the excavation continues, soil screening should resume. 

Soil Cuttings and Remediation System Trenching 

The soils generated from installing borings and the sub-grade piping to and from a remediation system do not need screening data for their disposal/treatment costs to be reimbursed. The documentation needed for a claim includes copies of manifests of the disposed/treated soils and a map showing the location of system trenching.


Obtaining reimbursement for soil removal projects is best approached by first seeking cost pre-approval. Be aware there are circumstances requiring mandatory pre-approval and other situations where you may wish to voluntarily request pre-approval (please see the previous Fund Facts: Mandatory Cost Pre-Approvals and Voluntary Cost Pre-Approvals, February 2000).

Pre-approval letters from the Board will qualify that reimbursement is based on documenting the contamination levels in the soil and showing that all the disposed/treated soils contained contamination above the action levels. A pre-approval from the Board is NOT a license to remove the full amount of estimated soils without providing this documentation. 

If you encounter an unusual situation or if the estimate is being exceeded by 10% or more contact one of the Board’s Environmental Claims Analysts immediately. Be prepared to fax the following information: 

·         the claim number;

·         a scaled map/sketch of the site showing the current excavation(s), conditions, features, etc.;

·         a scaled map showing the additional area proposed to be excavated; and

·         current soil contamination data results.

This information will give the Claims Analyst a basis on which to make a decision regarding any additional costs requiring pre-approval.

If you have questions about the information in this or any other Board FundFacts, please feel free to contact the Board.

Back To Top...