What are your top tips to best manage the risks of contaminated fill during construction projects?

Tip #1: Know that there are risks and liabilities for the owner, developer, contractor and consultants.

Management of known or potentially contaminated fill (and recycled material/debris) poses risks and liabilities to all involved: owners, developers, contractors, and consultants.  There are federal, state, and often local regulations and requirements that apply to managing fill and recycled materials. The site owner, developer,  contractor, and even the consultant who were involved in generating and arranging for the management of exported fill/materials could be liable for its handling and management under federal and state law.

Tip #2: Assess the likelihood of contaminated fill on your project at the outset in the concept development stage.

Construction contracts often presume that excess soil and demolition debris represents only a nominal cost or is viewed as a commodity in the bidding stage of a project. Completing a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in compliance with the ASTM standard is prudent and can offer some valuable information and liability protection, but is not always adequate to assess potential project impacts related to managing potentially contaminated materials.  Understand the cut/fill balance well in advance of contractor bidding and construction.

Tip #3: Plan ahead to minimize costs and delays.

A fill management plan incorporated into project bid documents, contracts, and construction documents designates responsibility and can be used to allocate costs. Characterizing fill early allows time for practical solutions such as treating material in place or in piles, segregating and routing material to lower cost facilities, consolidating/blending material on-site or re-working the site design. Insuring that your bidders have reviewed the plan and are experienced in the management of fill will get you a price without an “uncertainty premium” (high rates to buffer unknowns) or overly broad exclusions that lead to change orders.

Answer provided by Jeff Smith, PG, Associate
Jeff has over 24 years of experience with property assessments, pre-remedial investigation and strategy, RI/FS, FD/RA, alternative remedial strategies, amended RODs, and exposure pathway and vapor intrusion assessments. His career has required the mitigation of complex technical, regulatory, and legal issues, resulting in development of alternative, cost-effective, practical solutions to environmental problems.

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