New video series highlights issue of excess soil from construction projects

An Ontario construction and watermain group are working overtime to have excess soil treated not as waste, but as a resource, and they’ve launched a new awareness video to drive the message home.

The persistent problem according to groups like the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO), is that Ontario’s busy construction market generates almost 26 million cubic metres of excess construction soil every year – enough dirt to fill Toronto’s Rogers Centre 16 times over.

The groups say about $2 billion is spent each year to manage that excess soil, which comes from civil infrastructure projects for transit, roads, bridges, sewers, watermains and other utilities. On average, dumping excess soil can tack on about 14% to the overall cost of an infrastructure project.

“Clean excess soil can be more responsibly managed through better upfront planning,” said Andy Manahan, executive director of the RCCAO, in a statement to media. “That’s why we co-produced a three-part video series to increase awareness that there are alternatives to the ‘dig, haul long distances and dump’ approach,” he added.

Monahan’s team partnered with the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association to produce the video series to better inform the public, government and industry about the benefits of using best management practices. The video series is called “The Real Dirt on Dirt: Solutions for Construction Soil Management.”

Part One of the excess soil video series

Giovanni Cautillo, executive director of the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association, says that there are a lot of trucks on the road travelling 60 to 100 kilometres to dump excess soil as a waste material – and that is completely wrong.

“It’s not a waste – it’s a reusable resource,” Cautillo said in a statement to media. “When municipalities provide guidance to contractors about where soil from local infrastructure projects can be reused, the costs of handling and disposing of soil can be dramatically reduced. Wherever possible, soil should be reused onsite, but if this is not possible, having an approved reuse site within a close distance saves taxpayers money,” he added.

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is currently reviewing draft regulations to help improve ways to manage soil on building and infrastructure projects across Ontario. Manahan said that “a multi-ministry approach – environment, municipal affairs, transportation, infrastructure and others – will also help to achieve a more coordinated effort.”

An online soil-matching service is available from Supporting Ontario Infrastructure Investments and Lands (SOiiL) to help find reuse sites for excess soil. Visit soiil.com for more information.