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Lightly Contaminated Transportation Material Reuse Options and Specifications


Transportation agencies generate and then pay to dispose of large quantities of lightly contaminated materials such as street sweepings, gravel shoulder cuttings, and other roadway materials. These lightly contaminated materials could be beneficially reused rather than landfilled. Unfortunately due to regulations, stockpiling restrictions, inconsistent testing requirements, and long-term liabilities, there is a lack of reuse of these materials even though there is a high cost savings potential. Due to unfavorable regulations, uncertainty in environmental impact, and unknown engineering properties, there are many detractors to the reuse of these materials. Transportation agencies are generating increasing volumes of such materials, since new testing protocols detect contaminants in materials that had been previously thought of as clean. For example, due to improved contaminant detection technology many agencies are required to increase the frequency of street sweeping to meet Municipal Separate Storm System (MS4) standards, which in turn generates more lightly contaminated material. Once these materials have been deemed contaminated, the materials must be properly disposed of in regulated landfills which means more money is being spent on the disposal. DOT’s from across the country are interested in solutions to this costly and mounting lightly contaminated material problem.


The primary objectives of this research are to:

Identify states that have favorable regulations related to the beneficial reuse of lightly contaminated transportation materials

Determine what makes favorable regulations function

Obtain and synthesize copies of favorable regulations and specifications

Obtain and synthesize testing protocols for lightly contaminated materials

Retrieve cost benefit information from projects that incorporated lightly contaminated materials

Identify possible end uses for lightly contaminated materials and associated risks

Create life cycle cost and risk analysis for each end use


ndustrial by-product reuse in many states has shown that proper reuse of lightly contaminated materials is a benefit because: 1) using lightly contaminated materials reduces the need for virgin materials, and 2) using lightly contaminated materials reduces the need to use valuable landfill space. Due to the many different regulations across the country, DOT’s have no agreed upon standards, testing methods, or guidelines in place for the reuse of lightly contaminated transportation materials. Potential benefits enabled through the proposed research include:

Cost reduction associated with the use of less raw material

Cost reduction associated with less landfilling

Reduced hauling costs and carbon footprint

Resource conservations

Reducing use of virgin aggregate

Preserving landfill space

Greater predictability for construction and maintenance costs

Potential for public-private partnerships

Related Research:

The recycling of lightly contaminated transportation materials could potentially save agencies money, time, and resources. Recycling of lightly contaminated materials can be likened to the Environmental Protection Agency’s support of brownfield site cleanup. Brownfields are defined in the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act as a real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Brownfield sites are typically lightly contaminated and have great potential for reuse (OSHA, 2008).

Brownfield classification depends on several factors including the type of contamination, site conditions, local permit restrictions, time, and budget constraints. Therefore, it is important not only to observe the potential of the site, but also to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment before action is taken (Cooper 2014). This same approach could be taken for lightly contaminated transportation materials. Before brownfields, contaminated sites had to be cleaned thoroughly - to the point where children could ingest the cleaned soil. The cleaning to the point of ingestion has been found to be expensive and largely unnecessary. As long as the contaminants no longer pose a threat to people, the lightly contaminated sites do not need to be completely cleaned, brownfield sites only need to be eliminated of risk.

The largest concern in brownfield remediation, and also the reuse of lightly contaminated transportation material, is the risk versus reward. To combat the potential risk, many states provide favorable regulations, grants, and incentives for those undertaking the cleanup of brownfield sites. Therefore, it is important to understand governmental regulations and incentives associated with brownfields and how that framework might apply to the reuse of lightly contaminated transportation materials (Rafson, 1999).


Canvas transportation agencies for material reuse success stories

Obtain sample specifications

Canvas regulatory agencies for visions on facilitating reuse and the concerns associated with possible reuse

Canvas DOTs to obtain existing analytical data on both contaminants and physical properties of typical materials

Ex. Lightly contaminated soils, street sweepings, storm sediment, etc.

Collect and synthesize environmental and physical testing methods employed by DOTs to characterize lightly contaminated materials

Synthesize general characteristics of lightly contaminated transportation materials

Identify potential end uses for lightly contaminated material type

Synthesize life cycle costs and risk analysis for material reuse success stories

Evaluate benefits and risks of reusing lightly contaminated materials within the Right of Way (ROW)

Identify and evaluate existing tools that have been developed to help agencies make appropriate changes to practices, equipment, facilities, or agency policies when moving from materials to collection equipment.

Such tools may include materials for public outreach, citizen education, recommendations for policy, equipment, facility modification, and sources of maintenance personnel training and support

Compile existing best practices, training material, or other products into a single repository

Convert key information from technical reports into more “readable” formats for public outreach and non-technical users

Identify gaps in existing supports tools and equipment


State DOTs are aware of the costs associated with lightly contaminated transportation materials and are interested in research and guidance into the proper reuse of this material. State DOTs from across the country are concerned with the environmental impacts and engineering characteristics of these materials and will fully support research that details testing and proper use of these lightly contaminated transportation materials in a safe and beneficial manner.


Environmental Division in State DOTs

Sponsoring Committee:AMS20, Resource Conservation and Recovery
Research Period:6 - 12 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Andrew Graettinger and Winnie Okello
Source Info:● Cooper, S., “The Remediation of Brownfield Sites.” Pollution Engineering 46.11 (2014): 20-22.
● OSHA. “Brownfield Site Cleanup and Redevelopment.” OSHA Fact Sheet (2008): n. pag.
● Rafson, H. J., and Rafson, R. N. Brownfields: Redeveloping Environmentally Distressed Properties. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.
● United States, Congress, Committee on Government Reform. “Brownfields: What Will It Take To Turn Lost Opportunities Into America’s Gain.” 109ADAD, pp. 1-5. 109th Congress, 2nd session.
Date Posted:07/14/2017
Date Modified:07/27/2017
Index Terms:Waste management, Waste products, Wastes, Contaminants, Sweepings, Technological innovations, State departments of transportation, Waste disposal facilities,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Maintenance and Preservation

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