About the Author


Janis Keating

Articles by Janis Keating

Chemical Soil Stabilization – Part 1

| Despite all the work done by earthmoving equipment, each year wind and rain move much more soil than man could ever hope to shovel. And because soil is a finite commodity, one has to hold on to as much of it as possible. Plantings aid in this quest; the roots of trees and forbs help bind the soil, keeping it in one spot. Some spaces, such as dirt roads and trails, however, can't or shouldn't be seeded, so what are the options for holding the soil? Water has traditionally been used on dirt roads for temporary dust suppression, but the oft-resultant mud not only impedes the area's use, it can also cause more eventual erosion - the mud can be carried away on shoes, tires, or treads, and the gullies caused by heavy equipment can collect rainwater and cause washouts. If, as in the case of new home construction, the high-trafficked soil will eventually be planted, the cycle of water-mud-traffic can compact the soil so much that the homeowner will have a tough time getting anything to grow. ... READ MORE

Chemical Soil Stabilization – Part 3

| According to an abstract published by the Cognis Corporation of Cincinnati, OH, and Duesseldorf, Germany, the company's Terra-Control Soil Stabilizer, a polyvinyl acetate-based formulation, forms a three-dimensional membrane structure that holds seeds and soil in place while allowing water and oxygen penetration (see the article "Environmentally Favorable Erosion Control With a Polyvinyl Acetate-Based Formulation"). Various tests and field trials in the US, Europe, Australia, Malaysia, and Africa revealed that Terra-Control improved soil structure by increasing water and air permeability, the stability of soil aggregates, and infiltration/drainage. The product was also shown to reduce water demand; test plots of lettuce seedlings that received applications of Terra-Control yielded identical plant biomasses to the control groups while reducing water demand between 5% and 50%. Even in Algeria's sandy soil, with temperatures of 35-0C (95-10F), soil saturation was improved 30-0%. ... READ MORE

Chemical Soil Stabilization – Part 2

| From its offices in North Andover, MA, chemical giant Rohm and Haas Company supplies the industry with PaveCryl Suppress, a product that offers dust suppression and road stabilization. According to the company, the vinyl/acrylic emulsion provides optimum penetration and bonding when applied to fine or granular materials such as soil or dust-producing gravel. Treating an area with PaveCryl Suppress results in a durable water-resistant surface. "Although it's water-resistant, the surface is still permeable," says Anthony Mariniello of Rohm and Haas's Road Construction Chemical Group. "And it is, of course, a water-based product. When applied to a surface at dust-suppression strength, it's like a 'liquid crust.'" At higher dilution levels, PaveCryl Suppress can be used in a hydroseeding mix. "Sunlight eventually breaks it down, unlike MC-70 oil, which never dries and is always in the environment." ... READ MORE

Silt Stalkings

| With construction's high cost of equipment, fuel, and labor, it's too bad we can't harness the power of water. It often seems that nothing can move soil faster than a good rain-unfortunately, not necessarily to the places you want it to go. Therefore, soil and sediment must be captured and kept onsite. Fortunately, there are many products that can get the job done in a cost-effective manner. Where the Rubber Hits the Road, Sediment Can't Highway construction adds "safety" to concerns ab... ... READ MORE

No Longer a Pipe Dream

| A pipe's age, along with normal wear and tear, can cause systems to break down. During the winter of 2013--14, record cold temperatures across much of the nation also caused pipe failures, often in water mains. At such times especially, it's important to fix the problem quickly--not only to resume service, but also to keep crews in dangerous weather for the shortest time possible. Many cities these days are finding a variety of solutions to help get the job done. Taking Care in Tight Spac... ... READ MORE

No Outlets for Trash

| Removing sediment and trash from stormwater and, eventually, from natural waters can often be a challenge. The best first step in this task is to catch the unwanted items before they get to any water source-and there are a variety of inlet protection devices to do the job. Keeping Adobe out of Adobe's Stormwater Adobe Systems recently constructed a LEED-certified, water- and energy-conserving, 280,000-square-foot campus near Lehi, UT. With so much earthmoving going on, erosion control w... ... READ MORE

Sprouting BMPs

| Vegetation is often the BMP best suited for curbing erosion; however, not every site contains the best soil, which is crucial for quick seed germination and plant growth. Choosing the right seed can often solve such problems. Plants that tolerate salt are perfect for marshes that take ocean backflows, and drought-tolerant species work well for arid climates or spaces that won't get frequent watering. Amending the soil can also give plants a competitive edge. Large-scale amending isn't a... ... READ MORE

Pipe Systems and Pipe Rehabilitation

| Piping systems have existed for millennia; ancient Crete made its from terra cotta, a material that's still used today. When the Romans discovered how to refine lead, the element was employed in piping systems. (The word plumber derives from the Latin term for lead: plumbum .) Later, manufacturing discoveries added iron, steel, and concrete to plumbing's repertoire; when high density polyethylene plastic (HDPE) was developed in 1951, it, too, found work in the piping industry. Creating ... ... READ MORE

Changing the Lay of the Land

| Even in the Great Plains, very few sites are perfectly flat and level, so a certain amount of excavation is needed to make them "build-ready." In addition, any improvements might leave a site less flat-think of the valleys and hillsides often created by highway interchanges. Yet, one has to build where the people are, and that means working with a site until it's level and stable enough for vehicle access, large parking pads, and building construction. Retaining walls have made t... ... READ MORE

The Drain Game

| It's somewhat ironic: When one's trying to remove soil from an object, it often requires surfactants, manual labor, and copious amounts of water. Yet, when loose soil is struck by rain, it hitches a ride and quickly follows the runoff wherever it may go. Hence the importance of capturing soil and sediment before it reaches drains or natural streams. Although sediment movement can occur at any time, it's most likely during soil disturbances, such as construction. In many projects, utilit... ... READ MORE

Cleaner Streets, Cleaner Water

| Ask the average citizen about "street sweeping," and chances are she'll say, "It cleans up the trash people toss out of their cars." This is, of course, true, and what most people notice. Minutes after Los Angeles' 2013 Golden Dragon Parade ended, pedestrians quickly returned to Chinatown's sidewalks as street cleaners whisked along the parade route, collecting the numerous piles of paper confetti and Mylar streamers shot from and to the crowds. However, street sweeping does much more, ... ... READ MORE

From the Ground Up

| Anyone who's worked with a containerized plant has seen evidence of how strong plant roots can be. Adhering tightly to the soil, roots form a living net of fibers that often require a sharp knife, or ax, to rend. Of course, with any erosion control project, plant materials (especially those with fibrous roots, rather than taproots) are always a key component; however, many in the industry argue that plants can do much more of the work expected-and that a copious amount of hardscaping is... ... READ MORE

Sediment Limits: Not Always by the Numbers

| A draft of EPA's new stormwater rule is scheduled to be released in June 2013, with finalization (after the public comment period) projected for December 2014. The rule, initially scheduled for implementation in November 2012, is expected to include such provisions as integrating green infrastructure into project design; viewing stormwater as a resource; and generally slowing the flow of runoff to allow more infiltration, which will not only reduce the volume of runoff but also the amou... ... READ MORE

Soil Savers by the Seashore, and More

| To control erosion in areas of heavy water flows, riprap is often prescribed; however, purchasing, transporting, and setting such large rocks can be quite costly. In addition, depending upon the site, large boulders might not be the most attractive option. Advancements in erosion control blankets, mattresses, and turf reinforcement mats allow them to stand up to large water influxes, and they support vegetation, which makes the area treated look more natural. Blanketing the Shore ... ... READ MORE

The BAER Facts…And After-Fire Remedies

| Thousands of American acres, both private and public, burn each year. Whether caused by human carelessness or malevolence, or natural causes such as lightning strikes, wildfires destroy natural resources, displace wildlife, and often put human lives at risk. Because of its dry climate, the Southwest's forested areas are especially vulnerable to seasonal fires. While wildfires destroy, they also create; some plant species, such as Ceanothus (shrubs and trees in the buckthorn family... ... READ MORE

Pipe Systems and Pipe Rehabilitation

| Piping systems have existed for millennia; ancient Crete made its from terra cotta, a material that's still used today. When the Romans discovered how to refine lead, the element was employed in piping systems. (The word plumber derives from the Latin term for lead: plumbum .) Later manufacturing discoveries added iron, steel, and concrete to plumbing's repertoire; when high density polyethylene plastic (HDPE) was developed in 1951, it, too, found work in the piping industry. Creating a... ... READ MORE

A Sedimental Journey

| Controlling sediment concerns more than just state and federal regulators. In a recent Sarasota, FL, project, clean water was important to the resident fish as well as the developers of a world-class competitive rowing facility. "The project was a fishery relocation, draining a 40-acre lake. Cattleman Road was being extended, right through the lake we drained. We had to make another lake," explains Shawn Riley of Vero Beach, FL's StormWater Environmental (formerly known as Native L... ... READ MORE

Dealing With Dust

| For the most part, 2011 has been a tough weather year, especially for growers. During the spring, some areas of the country received record rains, washing out plantings; summer blew in with a vengeance, with searing temperatures and widespread drought. In August, the US Climate Prediction Center warned that the La Niña weather pattern could likely continue into 2012, worrying those who realize 2011 may be the worst drought year since the 1950s. Agricultural losses may reach the billions of dollars. The ... ... READ MORE

The Dirt on Dust Control

| More than a mere household inconvenience, dust can be a problem tied to erosion, road safety, and human health. You can't build anything without stirring up a little dust-but safe and cost-effective cleanup has to be part of the plan. Clean Sites, Clean Machines, Clean Products Rather than surrounding themselves with asphalt, many industrial plants lay down gravel for local traffic. Gravel is convenient, less expensive, and porous, but when the weather's dry, dust can be a problem. "Gravel roads, made o... ... READ MORE

Retaining Walls: What’s Right for the Site?

| Sometimes excavation unearths surprises: pockets of debris, different soils, giant boulders-or a pipeline one didn't know was there, as workers in Carmel, IN, discovered in summer 2010 when constructing a roundabout project. "During excavation, we found an abandoned gas line that wasn't in the plans," explains Walsh Construction's Charlie Gannon, project manager. "The original wall plans called for smaller bricks, which would have required more wall setback. That would've meant we would have had to dig ... ... READ MORE

Seeds of a Certain Sort

| More each day, plants that "could do the job" are not; a perennial grass that might stop a site's erosion in one season won't be used if it's not native to the area. Increasing use of native plants-the definition narrowing down from "regional" to "sub-county"-offers challenges for those who sow the seeds, and opportunities for those who reap them. Making Former Mines Shine Portions of West Virginia are coal country, and that means a good deal of mine reclamation work for Man, WV-based Evergreen Reclamat... ... READ MORE

No Maintain, No Gain

| Any piece of machinery with moving parts (and even some without, as computer users know) will need periodic maintenance. Metal stresses and wears out; belts fray and snap; parts that rub against others need lubrication. As machinery is increasingly used in materials recovery facilities (MRFs), these firms must have maintenance schedules in place, especially since ... READ MORE

Still Waters Run You Ragged

| Ponds can be a boon and a bane. For retaining or detaining water from a stormwater system, or within a site, they serve their purpose well; in addition, ponds can greatly enhance a site's aesthetic appeal. On the flip side, however, that standing water can become an eyesore at best, a health hazard at worst. But keeping algae and breeding mosquitoes at bay can be a simpler matter if one takes a tip from nature--by keeping the water moving. Towering falls or raging rapids aren't required; simple fountains... ... READ MORE

Best Practices Bettered?

| "The erosion control industry is getting ready to take a major step forward nationwide," says Eileen Straughan, president of Columbia, MD's Straughan Environmental Inc. "It's growing in both installation expertise and site management, but most importantly in outcomes for water quality in receiving waterways. I say this really because of the new EPA numeric effluent limitation guidelines for construction sites. In Maryland, attention to construction-site discharges has been aggressive because of the Ches... ... READ MORE

The C&D Report Card

| Since the economic downturn, home and commercial building is down; therefore, construction waste is also at lower levels. In some quarters, however, demolition waste has taken a slight uptick, as foreclosed/deteriorating homes have been leveled. Older cities such as Cleveland and Detroit have seen entire neighborhoods disappear. The economic stimulus package, which has concentrated on ... READ MORE

Inlets: Collect Water, Nothing Else

| In a perfect world, all your jobs would go smoothly. None of your crew would get sick, no equipment would break down, and all needed supplies would arrive on time, in good condition. Most importantly, the weather would cooperate; there wouldn't be a drop of rain until all earthmoving was finished and your vegetation had been seeded. Then there'd be a gentle rain to give your seeds just enough moisture to germinate, grow, and hold onto the soil. But it's an imperfect world, and nothing, especially the we... ... READ MORE

Hydroseeding Moves Up

| Although few people are browsing yacht catalogs in today's tough economy, most erosion control firms remain busy at work, thanks to the critical nature of their projects. Soil must be retained at all costs; common sense, as well as state and federal regulations, demands it. Because of its efficiencies-powerful machines that require smaller crews and that can apply seed, mulch, and other ingredients in one fell swoop-hydroseeding may be uniquely poised to benefit in today's economic climate. Post-Applica... ... READ MORE

Green in More Ways Than One

| The old adage, “One man’s trash is another’s treasure,” applies to many items that might arrive at your facility. With scrap metal prices rising, you likely see less of that these days; residents are taking their old washing machines to scrap yards for payment. By the same token, your aluminum recycling may be down, as ... READ MORE

High Time for Hydroseeding

| Nearly every business these days recites the mantra of "more work in less time," and few pieces of machinery have met that goal quite like hydroseeding machines. Need to seed, fertilize, and mulch? These machines can do all three tasks in one step-sometimes with only a one-person crew. One might wonder: When will agriculture take this page from horticulture's playbook? For many areas of the nation, wildfires are a contributing factor to erosion; in Washington, high annual rainfall is more likely the cul... ... READ MORE

Transforming Transfer Stations

| Transfer stations, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes, have traditionally served as consolidation points. They accept waste from collection vehicles, and workers then stuff the waste into trailers for transfer to landfills. Lately, some transfer stations have begun to operate more like their grownup cousins, MRFs, using a variety of picking and ... READ MORE

Taking It to the Mat

| Some sites just need a little more protection. Steep slopes and some sites with flowing water often cannot be stabilized with applications of seed and mulch alone. Rolled erosion control products (RECPs) bring a little "weight" to the solution, along with a variety of choices. Erosion control blankets are designed to degrade relatively quickly, sometimes after one growing season. If the vegetation planted can hold its own after that period, there's little reason to use a product with more heft. For site... ... READ MORE

Reaching Great With Leachate

| Most garbage contains moisture; few people wring the last drops of milk from the carton, and moldy, forgotten leftovers are tossed, containers and all. Many trash components manage to decompose to a certain extent, and that can cause moisture, which becomes leachate. In addition, except for in the most arid climates, rainfall and snowmelt seep ... READ MORE

A Little Care Reduces Wear

| Refuse containers get little respect. Perhaps that’s due to their purpose; “garbage is as garbage does?” But despite their lowly status, in the past 50 years, there have been many transitions in garbage “cans.” The ribbed-steel garbage can, with its detachable lid, gave a certain amount of security and neatness to one’s trash, unless the ... READ MORE

Tracking, Not Typing

| Tracking software offers many benefits to its users. Firms can track where their vehicles are at any given moment, or within a workday; companies can also analyze routes to identify and solve traffic problems or collection bottlenecks. Most software also helps with the “number crunching,” as trucks can “tell” the home office how many customers ... READ MORE

Revegetation Recipe

| Planting for erosion control isn’t like tending a garden. The scale of such projects-often covering acres or miles-makes it impossible to give each site the “tender loving care” one might lavish on a favorite flowerbed. Yet the required tasks are somewhat the same; one chooses the right seeds for the site and climate, uses mulch ... READ MORE

What You Need for Seed

| It probably goes without saying: If the site was perfect, it likely wouldn't need erosion control. Good soil, good drainage, a gentle slope or none, plenty of vegetation-in real life, that's the "after" photo. No wonder your work is so challenging! It's often difficult enough to get control measures in place on a "natural wear" site; adding the stressors of heavy equipment or wildfire makes the task that much harder. So, pity the poor seed that tries to get established on such a site. Moisture's a must f... ... READ MORE

Project Profile: A Slough of Reasons for a Scraper

| A variety of machines will move earth, but wet soil causes particular problems for most of them. Not only is it heavier and harder to manipulate, but the wet ground also makes driving several-ton machinery difficult. Waiting for the soil to dry might be an option, but what if wet is the whole purpose of the site? Davis, CA's Chris Galloway (CG) Construction faced these challenges when the firm was contracted to reshape a land parcel into a wildlife slough. "Originally, this Sutter County land was marsh-... ... READ MORE

Pumping Up for Bulky Waste

| Not all trash is small, fitting into a can, cart, or bag. Dead shrubs or tree limbs can be heavy; furniture and appliances wear out, and are discarded. With this year’s digital TV transition, more haulers are seeing various-sized analog televisions at the curb-which, unlike some furniture and white goods, are not snapped up by ... READ MORE

Zen and the Art of Cart and Tipper Maintenance

| There are few “manuals” on how to run solid waste businesses; operators have learned, much like the Zen Buddhist masters of the past, that direct experience reveals the path, rather than manuals. One such experience is that clients, whether private or public, have tightened budgets, and it’s the innovative waste operators who will win and ... READ MORE

Software Solutions for Hard Times

| Between municipalities facing budget crunches and the pressure of increased competition, the trash industry can’t afford to have anything—time, fuel, or manpower—going to waste. More accurate scales ensure that every ounce is accounted for; integrated software feeds that information directly to the billing department. Other software makes the most of time, manpower, and resources by ... READ MORE

Keeping Sediment in Check

| Sediment can trip up even the easiest projects. Various government regulations to preserve natural waterways must be observed, meaning excess sediment has to be kept out of freshwater resources. Storm sewer lines must be kept clear; sediment buildup requires costly mucking out, and, of course, many storm drains eventually end up in natural waterways. To meet government regulations, as well as to save money and time, most contractors install sediment controls before doing any dirt moving. Silt Doesn't Go... ... READ MORE

Win the Bidding Rat Race…by Using a Mouse

| Getting work is sometimes a rat race—the more bids you can make, the more likely one of those will be a “win.” However, the maze of traditional takeoff and estimating takes so many man-hours that not everyone can bid on all the jobs they might like. To gain an edge, some firms, instead of using ... READ MORE

Hitting the Slopes

| In their natural habitat, hills and slopes can pretty much do as they please; they can allow vegetation or not, they can erode, and they can remain impassible. However, hills and slopes that coexist with civilization have to conform: No landslides! No rockslides! Hills surrounded by prime real estate may also find themselves molded to humans' needs. Fortunately for humans, today's erosion control products allow us to make mountains into molehills fairly easily. Turning Peaks Into Parking Lots Most of th... ... READ MORE

Technology in Construction: Making the Grade, Getting the Bid

| Bids—it's great to win them, but the paperwork can make you lose your temper. The solution? A variety of companies produce bidding, estimating, and/or excavation management software that can take the mind-numbing tedium out of number crunching. Making bids a breeze The Odessa, TX-based Jones Brothers Dirt and Paving has used HCSS' HeavyBid software for three of its 55 years. "I attended a demonstration at a trade show and was impressed with the way the program worked," says Kenneth Ford, estimator and ... ... READ MORE

Putting Erosion Problems to Bed With Blankets

| Water, water everywhere-not the best site on which to use water-based applications, such as hydroseeding. For slopes or areas where water is meant to run, such as drainage ditches or retaining ponds, a covering of erosion control blankets or turf reinforcement mats can solve many problems. Water can't move them-indeed, they soak up water, adding weight, and become more immovable-offering longer-lasting protection for sown seed. Great Cover for Runoff John Ziliak, erosion control division manager of Dayli... ... READ MORE

It’s Dirty Jobs, but Someone Has to Do It

| Workers must tote heavy high-pressure hoses into hard-to-reach places. Photo: Hydro-Plant Inc. A typical Hydro-Plant job. Each tankful can cover 15,000 square feet. The slurry is dyed green so applicators know they have covered every inch of the site. Cleaning sewers, removing roadkill from highways, and gutting catfish certainly qualify as dirty jobs, but the folks at San Marcos, CA's Hydro-Plant found they were in that category, too, when the Discovery C... ... READ MORE

Giving Plants a Fighting Chance

| I t's the rare construction site whose soil doesn't need amending before vegetation is planted. To begin with, if a plot's soil is exceptionally fertile, chances are it would have remained in agricultural or horticultural use, and would not have been dug up for a building or highway interchange. However, even acreage that's destined for growing great things rarely contains prime, ready-to-plant soil. Sandy soils lose water too quickly and contain too few nutrients. Clay soils retain too much water, and a... ... READ MORE

Grinding of the Green

| Greenwaste involves much more than residential grass clippings and dead leaves. In areas of new construction, tons of greenwaste—unwanted brush and trees—must be cleared before building can begin, and much of that waste has traditionally ended up in landfills. Many MSW facilities now not only separate plant matter from the wastestream, but they also process ... READ MORE

Planting for the Future

| Bent grass, fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye: Selecting the right turfgrass seed can be either a simple or a complicated matter, depending on the turf’s intended use, cost factors, site location, and site owner’s personal preference. Think of large expanses of grass–parks and golf courses first come to mind; however, the nation’s highways constitute a ... READ MORE

Retaining Walls: Looks Do Matter

| When building retaining walls, the initial considerations are always practical. The finished wall needs to be strong; it must have integrity, whatever its height; it should offer ease and speed of application; and it must do the job for which it’s intended. The result: a tough wall for a tough job. But there’s more to ... READ MORE

Seeding: Success Is All in the Techniques

| Want to be rich beyond your wildest dreams? Using instant mashed potatoes as your guide, merely invent the ideal grass–”Just add water!”–and the world will beat a path to your door! For most applications (commercial, golf courses, residential, roadsides), people want grass right away, so various techniques have been devised to accelerate the process. What’s ... READ MORE

What’s Ahead for Roadsides?

| When you’re cruising down the interstate, you might notice colorful wildflowers or landscaping at the side of the road. Those beautiful little patches of nature don’t just appear naturally; every state employs hundreds of workers to manage roadside vegetation. Facing concerns over roadside appearance, driver safety, erosion control, and stormwater pollution, state departments of transportation ... READ MORE

Whatever Happened to Acid Rain?

| In the 1970s, acid rain was a top-level environmental problem that garnered great public attention. Automobiles and industries burning fossil fuels expelled large amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Reacting with water and oxygen in the atmosphere, the substances formed acidic compounds that fell back to earth, killing trees, polluting surface ... READ MORE

Combined Sewer Systems: How One City Is Coping

| Pundits offer a variety of reasons for the problem of "why America's cities are going down the drain." Ironically enough, considering the projected costs of solving the problem, one of the reasons rarely mentioned is those drains--specifically, sewer and stormwater drains and systems.  Municipalities built in the latter half of the 20th century created their infrastructures for a different set of codes than those in place when most major American cities were designed. Beginning in the 1950s and '60s... ... READ MORE