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Rapid field detection of sulfate and organic content in soils : technical report.
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    Technical report; Sept. 2009-Aug. 2010.
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  • Abstract:
    In recent years, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has experienced problems chemically

    stabilizing moderate to high plasticity clay soils with calcium-based additives. Many of the problems are the

    result of soluble sulfate minerals in the soil reacting with the lime or cement added for stabilization. The

    occurrence of these deposits is unpredictable and often restricted to small areas. To address this problem,

    the researchers set about identifying a technique that provides a map showing the sulfate content of the soil

    over a large area to a depth of 3 to 4 ft. Two technologies were identified that provide an indirect

    measurement of sulfate salts (an electromagnetic device – EM-38, and a soil conductivity device – VERIS

    3150). We tested these devices on three different TxDOT projects in different parts of the state that have

    been known for high sulfate contents. We collected soil samples at 1 ft intervals to a depth of 4 ft where the

    data varied. We measured the PI, moisture content, sulfate content, and organic content in each sample. We

    then ran multivariate statistical analyses to correlate the conductivity data collected with the VERIS 3150 to

    laboratory-measured soil properties. We observed that soil conductivity is related to the soil texture/clay

    content, moisture content, and dissolved salts (i.e., sulfate and other salt minerals). We noted that for all of

    the projects tested, a soil conductivity over 100 mS/m may contain problematic sulfate levels, but it may also

    be due to high plasticity clay soils and/or high moisture contents with other dissolved salts. What is

    noteworthy about this research is it provides a tool to intelligently decide where to collect soil samples to

    analyze for problematic sulfate levels versus the current method of collecting soil samples in a grid pattern of

    a specified interval that may be too large and not detect problematic sulfate levels until the road explodes.

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