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Activity 3.4.

4 Web Soil Survey

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service operates a National Cooperative
Soil Survey. The survey provides online access to soil data, maps, and information for
more that ninety-five percent of the nations counties. Although an on-site soils
investigation is often needed, the Web Soil Survey information can be useful when
researching the existing soil conditions on a site.

In this activity you will use the Web Soil Survey to gather information about the soil
conditions on the Keystone Library site.

Engineering notebook
Internet access
USCS Soil Classification Chart
Plasticity Chart

The following website contains the information necessary to complete the questions
below and to research the properties of soil on your site.


Use your engineering notebook to respond to the following questions. Rewrite the
question in your notebook.

1. Start the Web Soil Survey by depressing the START WSS button.
2. Use the navigation bar to Navigate By State and County. Define your site as
an Area of Interest using the AOI button on the Area of Interest (AOI) tab.

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Civil Engineering and Architecture Activity 3.4.4 Web Soil Survey Page 1
3. Choose the Soil Data Explorer tab.

4. Choose the Intro to Soils tab. Research the information to answer the following
questions in your notebook.

What is soil?-the upper layer of earth in which plants grow, a black or dark
brown material typically consisting of a mixture of organic remains, clay, and
rock particles.
What are the four classifications of mineral particles in soil?-sand, silt, clay,
What other types of matter can be included in soil?-living biomass of
microorganisms, fresh and partially decomposed residues, and humus: the well-
decomposed organic material.
How is soil formed?-formed from the weathering of rocks
What is a soil scientist?- a person who is qualified to evaluate and interpret soils and
soil-related data for the purpose of understanding soil resources as they contribute to not
only agricultural production, but as they affect environmental quality and as they are
managed for protection of human health and the environment.
What is a soil survey?- the process of classifying soil types and other soil properties in a
given area and geo-encoding such information
What type of information does a soil survey provide for construction
engineers?- whether it is suitable for a certain type of construction

5. View the Soil Map (choose the Soil Map tab) and identify the soils that are
present on your site by their classification code. Within your design team, assign
each of the soil types to a team member for research.
6. Choose the Soil Data Explorer tab, then choose the Soils Properties and
Qualities tab. Search the data and record the following information for your soil
in your notebook. Do not change the default values in the navigation bar, but be
sure to include information for All Layers (at the bottom of Advanced Options).

o Liquid Limit-Liquid Limit less than 50 and Organic Matter

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Civil Engineering and Architecture Activity 3.4.4 Web Soil Survey Page 2
o Percent Clay- 42%
o Percent Sand- 58%
o Percent Silt- 0.01%
o Plasticity Index-Plasticity Index less than 20

7. Fill in the following table to display each soil property for each soil. You will have
to calculate the Plastic Limit. Use the USCS Soil Classification Chart and
Plasticity Graph, to classify each soil using the USCS classification.

Soil Liquid Organic Percent Percent Percent Plasticity Plastic USCS

Classification Limit Matter Clay Sand Silt Index Limit Classification
(percent) (percent) PL= LL- PI

WkB 50 N/A .0875 .075 0 20 30

MeB 50 N/A .3375 .0875 0 20 30

8. Choose the Suitabilities and Limitations for Use tab.

o Research the limitations for sanitary facilities on the property.
Specifically, research the limitations (if any) for installation of septic
tank absorption fields. Record your findings in your notebook.-
septic systems consist of a septic tank that contains wastewater and
a drain field that disperses wastewater effluent from the tank into the

o Research the limitation for small commercial buildings. Record your

findings in your notebook.- In detail SEPTIC DRAINFIELD SIZE
include tables that give the required septic system drainfield size
based on
The soil percolation rate (in minutes per inch) and other soil
The number of building occupants (or number of bedrooms in a residential
property x 2) and/or the assumed or design level in gallons per day of
wastewater volume

to provide
The number of linear feet of conventional septic drainfield trench required to
handle the wastewater daily flow volume

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Civil Engineering and Architecture Activity 3.4.4 Web Soil Survey Page 3
9. Print out a soils map and create a soils report for your site. The soils report
should include your research, the soil classification of each soil, the
recommended soil bearing capacity for the site, the suitability of the site for a
septic system, and the suitability of the site for development.

1. How will these findings affect the design and construction of your project on this

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Civil Engineering and Architecture Activity 3.4.4 Web Soil Survey Page 4