D-B swaps dirt with raceway

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It would seem that Spring Branch Road is more than just a clever nickname.

The area’s streams have been causing some trouble for crews constructing a $19.5 million expansion at Dawson-Bryant Elementary, who will have to import new soil as the dirt is too wet to be built upon.

“If you have moisture in the soil to a certain percentage, then it doesn’t allow you to compact the soil like you need it to be compacted,” said Jim Payne, Dawson-Bryant Superintendent.

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“If you don’t compact it correctly, then it will affect your bricks and foundation and everything,” he said.

Although the soil was tested for moisture, that was done in July, traditionally the year’s driest month, and construction began in April, the wettest.

Job superintendent Fred Pack, with BBL Construction Services of Columbus, said that the moisture was three times the optimum level, which could have made for messy results.

“If you try to compact soil that’s too wet, you drive equipment and dump trucks over it and it looks like a water bed,” said Pack.

Teams were already a bit behind, as the project had been delayed a month so students at the school could complete proficiency testing without noisy distractions.

The solution was a novel one: Instead of waiting for warmer months, crews did the next best thing in swapping their soil.

Crews have been hauling the dirt now from the D-B grounds to nearby Rocky Top Raceway, which is donating some dry dirt of its own, at no cost to the school.

Much of the water has also been redirected away from the foundation area and for the proposed parking lot.

“It’s really just a time-saver,” Payne said. “We’re able to divert the water and get started in a more timely manner.”

In all, the dirt relocation will probably only slow things down for a week or so, but Payne said that’s time well spent, especially considering that some of the parts of the elementary building set to be demolished are suffering from a slipping foundation and cracks because of water.

“It’s one of those things that if you don’t deal with the issue correctly now then it’s going to haunt you forever,” Payne said. “So what we’re trying to do is to do it the right way.”