290-11 TxDOT's Use of Compost to Control Erosion.

See more from this Division: S11 Soils & Environmental Quality
See more from this Session: Soil and Environmental Quality General Session: I
Tuesday, October 18, 2011: 3:50 PM
Henry Gonzalez Convention Center, Room 210A
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Barrie Cogburn, Design Division, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Austin, TX
Erosion control issues on highway construction and maintenance projects can be especially challenging.  As topsoil sources have become depleted over the years, it has been observed that the most basic part of re-vegetation, a 4-inch topsoil seedbed, is actually soil with little or no organic material necessary to sustain plant growth.  The resulting erosion is costly and time consuming to remedy.  These issues led the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to consider compost as a possible erosion control tool.  However, the lack of consistent and statewide sources prevented the agency from more widespread use of the material.

TxDOT partnered with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to focus on the research, development and implementation of an effective compost utilization program.  Through the coordination of statewide workshops and demonstration projects that partnered with municipalities, local material sources and the road building industry, the team wrote and implemented what is recognized now to be the nation’s most comprehensive compost specification.  The award winning compost utilization program resulted in the agency becoming the largest market in the nation. 

A large part of this unique effort was made possible by the largest Clean Water Act grant ever awarded by the EPA at the time.  As downstream urban water quality was threatened by nearby dairy manure land application, a long-term, viable solution was desperately needed.  By utilizing funds to help develop a regional compost industry and market the product to area contractors for use on local highway projects, water quality in the region has improved.  And the regional compost industry that grew out of this effort is now self sustaining. 

Since the TxDOT program began over twelve years ago, the agency's usage of compost has increased dramatically.  As of FY 10, over 3 Million cubic yards of compost has been specified.  Today, the agency utilizes composts produced from every corner of the state from a wide variety of feed-stocks.  By specifying compost, TxDOT saves time and money by establishing vegetation more quickly.  And by utilizing a recycled product, the agency helped created a market for materials that were once land-filled.  The erosion control ideas that were first embraced and demonstrated by TxDOT and TCEQ are now finding additional support by other agencies, municipalities and industries.  As word of the beneficial results continues to spread, new research and products show unlimited potential for the future.

See more from this Division: S11 Soils & Environmental Quality
See more from this Session: Soil and Environmental Quality General Session: I
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