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Underwater Sampling of Soils

John Huang, Ph.D., PE and John Poullain, PE

This three hour online course discusses the commonly used equipment for soil sampling and recovering soil samples in nearshore environments such as harbors, channels, rivers, and wetlands. The course is a guide for providing the soils information for marine construction projects, dredging of channels, harbors and reclamation of wetlands. Visual examination and other measures used during sampling and sample recovery are considered. The types of equipment and methods covered in the course include common available sampling equipment, boomerang, diver, box, and gravity corers. Guidelines for grab, dredge and drill string samplers are discussed. Special attention is given to the handling, storage, and selection of samples and the procedures used for soil sampling. Basic soil types and factors such as the type of sediment, depth of water, and availability of vessels are considered in the selection of the appropriate sampling methods. Chemical and deep water sampling are not addressed herein.

The design of nearshore foundations, excavation, and fills requires an understanding of underwater soil sediments, soil characteristics and consideration of problem soils. Samples provide the information necessary for laboratory tests and for in-situ field-testing. Sampling soils underwater is similar to onshore procedures but is more difficult to perform because of factors like the wind, tides, currents, and water depths. It is important to follow the guidelines so the appropriate sampling methods are selected especially since underwater exploration is expensive and difficult to perform and requires special precautions for quality samples.

Nearshore sediment samples are required for a variety of projects. The type of sediment must be determined for harbor and channel dredging in order to properly dispose of the material and to size disposal areas. Harbor dredging may entail designing dryland expansions of the harbor facilities. Because soils in dredge slurries settle at different rates when placed in confined or unconfined areas, future development is determined by the rate of soil consolidation. Samples obtained for laboratory testing help to predict the engineering properties, constructability, consolidation rates, and the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the sediment. Other sampling needs include foundation investigations for drilling platforms, control of underwater earthwork at dams, offshore wind farms and other underwater construction.

Sample data is required to evaluate the disposal alternatives and dredge plant requirements, possible beneficial uses such as for wetland habitats, island and for barrier island protection for coastal areas, and for industrial and residential developments. Because of the large variety of soils and a large variety of applied soil mechanics problems there is also a large variety of soil sampling methods for determining the engineering properties of soils. Before the sampling program can be requested the design engineer must define the purpose for the exploration program and the testing program for field and laboratory personnel.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.