Soil recycling saves money

Situated at the Westgate entrance is a huge 40-foot-tall mountain of recyclable material. No, it’s not a mound of pop cans or newspapers, but earth. Cheerfully known as the “dirt pile,” this man-made hill is part of Argonne’s Soil Recycling Program — which saves the laboratory money and reduces its greenhouse-gas (GHG) footprint.

Soil recycling is a part of Argonne’s sustainability plan and environmental goals. This program saves money and contributes to the trend of environmental friendly operations spreading like wild-fire all over the site.

Unused soil, gravel and clay are trucked to the soil storage locations on site to be used at a later time. This saves money and time by not having to order and truck in earth fill materials for Facilities Management and Services projects. The clay hill is the one you see from Westgate Road. The topsoil bank is just south of the clay storage pile, while the gravel load is stored in the 362 Area.

The stockpile idea started as a small mole-hill back in 2006 and gradually grew in size from various projects. The construction of the H. T. Ricketts Laboratory, the Theory and Computing Sciences Building and recently, the construction of the new Chilled Water Plant, all added size and girth to the mound.

“Several hundred thousand dollars have been saved by stockpiling the materials and subsequently reusing the materials on site,” said Phil Rash of Argonne’s Facilities Management and Engineering Division. Having such a large amount of clay on hand contributed to the success of the recent demolition of Building 301.  This building had a large basement and additional soil that needed to be removed.

About 15,000 cubic yards of clay and topsoil were used from the reserve to top off the Building 301 site. This equates to more than 1,200 truck-loads of material and 20,000 miles of driving that were avoided, reducing Argonne’s carbon and GHG footprint. Rash added, “several activities due to the concept of soil recycling on site has actually resulted in materials being excavated for one job and transported directly to another job as backfill.”

The ongoing demolition of Building 330 will recycle about 20,000 cubic yards of clay and topsoil from the existing stockpiles. The 200 Area electrical substation project presently underway recycled about 6,000 cubic yards of clay from the mound. Recent road projects and the demolition of Building 330 have also recycled about 1,000 cubic yards of gravel.

View photos of the piles.

Posted Mar. 10, 2011