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Activity 3.4.

4 Web Soil Survey


The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service operates a National Cooperative

Soil Survey. The survey provides online access to soil data, maps, and information for
more that ninety-five percent of the nations counties. Although an on-site soils
investigation is often needed, the Web Soil Survey information can be useful when
researching the existing soil conditions on a site.

In this activity you will use the Web Soil Survey to gather information about the soil
conditions on the Keystone Library site.

Engineering notebook
Internet access
USCS Soil Classification Chart
Plasticity Chart

The following website contains the information necessary to complete the questions
below and to research the properties of soil on your site.

Use your engineering notebook to respond to the following questions. Rewrite the
question in your notebook.

1. Start the Web Soil Survey by depressing the START WSS button.
2. Use the navigation bar to Navigate By State and County. Define your
site as an Area of Interest using the AOI button on the Area of Interest (AOI)
3. Choose the Soil Data Explorer tab.

4. Choose the Intro to Soils tab. Research the information to answer the
following questions in your notebook.

What is soil?
the upper layer of earth in which plants grow, a black or dark brown
material typically consisting of a mixture of organic remains, clay, and
rock particles.
What are the four classifications of mineral particles in soil?

What other types of matter can be included in soil?

How is soil formed?
Soil is the thin layer of material covering the earth's surface and is
formed from the weathering of rocks. It is made up mainly of
mineral particles, organic materials, air, water and living organisms
all of which interact slowly yet constantly
What is a soil scientist?
a scientist that studies soil
What is a soil survey?
a survey based on the characteristics of the soil in the area of interest
What type of information does a soil survey provide for construction
the characteristics of the soil

5. View the Soil Map (choose the Soil Map tab) and identify the soils that
are present on your site by their classification code. Within your design team,
assign each of the soil types to a team member for research.
6. Choose the Soil Data Explorer tab, then choose the Soils Properties
and Qualities tab. Search the data and record the following information for your
soil in your notebook. Do not change the default values in the navigation bar, but
be sure to include information for All Layers (at the bottom of Advanced

o Liquid Limit
o Organic Matter
o Percent Clay
o Percent Sand
o Percent Silt
o Plasticity Index
7. Fill in the following table to display each soil property for each soil. You will
have to calculate the Plastic Limit. Use the USCS Soil Classification Chart and
Plasticity Graph, to classify each soil using the USCS classification.

Soil Liquid Organic Percent Percent Percent Plasticity Plastic USCS

Classification Limit Matter Clay Sand Silt Index Limit Classification
(percent) (percent) PL= LL- PI

GW 10% 90% 63% 22% 15% 30 20

SP 33% 87% 54% 13% 33% 12 30

SM 45% 52% 48% 19% 33% 20 17

GC 62% 85% 73% 10% 17% 21 19

8. Choose the Suitabilities and Limitations for Use tab.

o Research the limitations for sanitary facilities
on the property. Specifically, research the limitations (if any) for
installation of septic tank absorption fields. Record your findings in
your notebook.
A septic tank is a watertight tank made of steel, concrete or other approved
materials in which the settleable solids of sewage settle out and are largely
changed into liquids or gases by bacterial decomposition. The remaining residue
in the tank is a heavy, black semi-liquid sludge which must be removed from the
tank periodically. Although the completely digested sludge contains relatively few
disease germs, in cleaning the tank it is impossible to remove the digested
sludge without removing some undigested material. Therefore, it is particularly
important that the removed sludge be disposed of in a safe manner. There are
commercial service companies that will contract for septic tank cleaning and
sludge disposal
o Research the limitation for small commercial
buildings. Record your findings in your notebook.
Metal septic tanks shall be prefabricated of a minimum of 14 gauge commercial
grade steel. Corrosion protection shall, at a minimum, consist of a hot-dipped
asphalt coating of at least 0.025-inch thickness properly applied to all surfaces of
the new, clean, bare metal.
9. Print out a soils map and create a soils report for your site. The soils
report should include your research, the soil classification of each soil, the
recommended soil bearing capacity for the site, the suitability of the site for a
septic system, and the suitability of the site for development.

1. How will these findings affect the design and construction of your project
on this site?