Dewatering a construction site matters for various reasons. It aids worker safety, shields management from liability, increases productivity, minimizes delay, prevents damage to materials and prolongs equipment life. Do wet working conditions also affect the environment and your ability to bag renewable energy incentives and green building certifications?
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Where Does Excess Water in Construction Sites Come From?
Too much water in job sites can come from natural sources or construction operations. The usual suspects in ponding are the following:
- Groundwater: Underground water — not ice sheets — is the largest water reservoir on land. About 5.8 cubic miles of freshwater reside within the top 1.2 miles of the planet’s crust. If you excavate deep enough, you’ll find it and inadvertently submerge parts of your job site.
- Precipitation: Rain, drizzle, ice crystals, snow, sleet and hail are forms of water in Earth’s atmosphere that drop on land. They’ll accumulate in open holes if you can’t keep them at bay.
- Flooding: Heavy downpours can cause deluges. If your site is near a body of water, nonstop rainfall can bring about flash floods and indefinitely inundate your workplace.
- Equipment cleanup: Without proper drainage, your crew may channel water to pits when washing tools and machines.
How Does Standing Water Impact the Environment?
Too much water in your job site can lead to environmental concerns, endanger your workers, harm the public and compromise your green construction efforts.
Groundwater can contain toxic waste and pathogens that threaten local communities. Its contaminants can pollute the soil and water sources, putting people and wildlife at risk.
Standing water can collect airborne toxins. It can also weaken soil stability and cause landslides and mudslides, sending sediment and debris to fisheries and imperiling animals.
Pests and insects love to breed in stagnant water. Neglecting it for too long gives these invaders time to build strength and wreak havoc on your construction crew, residents and their pets. For example, mosquitoes can contract and spread harmful organisms and cause severe zoonotic diseases, such as encephalitis and meningitis. These pesky insects can also infect animals, particularly horses. They account for 96.9% of West Nile Virus disease among mammals outside humans. About 33% of horses die after getting infected.
Being the source of an epidemic will bring bad press to your construction operations. Turning the local community and regulators against you may disqualify developers from taking advantage of tax credits, rebates and feed-in tariffs.
Does Dewatering Qualify You for Renewable Energy Incentives?
No two renewable energy incentives have identical requirements, so dewatering may or may not affect your eligibility for government-backed programs, such as grants, subsidies and renewable energy certificates. Improving public health is generally one of the goals of these incentives, so irresponsible construction practices may sabotage your position.
Moreover, failing to address a flooded job site urgently may be grounds for green building certification disqualification. Registered projects are subject to scrutiny, so putting off a necessary dewatering procedure may not evade the watchful eye of evaluators.
Ways to Dewater Construction Sites
Dewatering is achieved through various methods. Each redistributes surface or groundwater from one place to another, usually on-site. The usual redistribution destinations are detention basins, tanks, and forested or densely vegetated areas.
Generally, local, state and federal guidelines bar excess water from construction sites without going through a filtration process to remove impurities that can be detrimental to the environment.
How should you dewater your job site? Explore your three main options.
This dewatering method involves creating channels the water can use to flow away from the site. Once excavation work is complete, gravity does the rest of the job.
This option involves using sumps to collect groundwater before pumping it out. It also relies on gravity, naturally directing the liquid to seep into the excavation area. It’s the way to go when dealing with shallow excavation with high sand or gravel content.
Drilling a Well Network
This technique involves a dewatering system of small wells drilled into the ground at a specific depth and optimally spaced around the excavation. Pipes and vacuum pumps link the wells to the surface to move the water.
Take this route when dealing with shallow excavations at depths of up to 19 feet. Anything deeper may require using boreholes and submersible pumps to lower the groundwater level beneath the pit. This technique is perfect for low-lying areas.
Alternatively, use eductor wells to extract groundwater more than 100 feet deep. This dewatering application involves high-pressure water instead of vacuums. This option can be complicated and expensive, so consider it only when dealing with clay and other low-permeability materials.
Handle Water in Construction Sites Accordingly
Whether you genuinely care for the environment or renewable energy incentives are your primary motivators, take dewatering seriously. Study the situation carefully to determine the most suitable method to redistribute water efficiently and get back on schedule as soon as possible.
Jack Shaw is the senior lifestyle writer at Modded with a special interest in covering concerns of health, family, and relationships. You’ll often find him exploring nature or playing with his dogs in his free time.