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General Soils

Penn’s Trail Environmental, LLC performs soil classification for a wide variety of land use purposes.  Some investigations which we routinely perform are described below.  To contact our staff regarding one of these investigations or any other soil classification questions, click here.

Alluvial Soil Evaluations

The purpose of an alluvial soil evaluation is to determine the extent of any stream-deposited (alluvial) soil on a site.  These studies are typically required by municipalities to keep development out of flood prone areas.  A professional soil scientist will perform a detailed site investigation using a hand-turned auger to define limits of alluvial soils in the field.  

Soil classification is determined based on criteria established by the National Cooperative Soil Survey.  Morphological characteristics of soil, such as horizonation, color, texture, structure, and redoximorphic features are evaluated.  These classification criteria are used to define a specific soil series.  

Alluvial soil evaluations are not to be confused with engineering studies and do not replace the need to review established calculated floodplains determined by FEMA or other mathematically generated data.

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Soil Reclassification

Every county in Pennsylvania has a published county-wide soil map that is intended to provide residents and government officials a sense of soil suitability for specific purposes.  These surveys, conducted by the USDA-NCRS (formerly known as the Soil Conservatioin Service), were initially intended to assist farmers, foresters and natural resource professionals in maximizing the use of their properties for agricultural production and wildlife management. Over the years, muicipalities have used the surveys as a general planning tool to direct development and, more recently, to limit development in areas believed to be unsuitable.

Many municipalities have established ordinances based on soil mapping. Penn's Trail employs qualified soil scientists to verify whether the published mapping at a site is correct.  They have the expertise to provide the necessary documentation to correctly classify soils on sites where the mapping is in error due to scale of the original mapping or variations in bedrock type or other soil formation conditions.  Prime agricultural soil mapping, hydric soil delineation, and seasonal high water table evaluations are also soil-related concerns of many municipalities that we regularly resolve.

There are a variety of construction activities that may require soil testing and/or classification, including:

  • evaluations for soil bearing capacity (foundation footings);

  • qualitative topsoil evaluations for use in grading;

  • pond construction and sedimentation evaluations;

  • fill evaluations;

  • and most other soil related issues.


We can, in many cases, establish the soil types and conditions that pre-dated site disturbance, if necessary.

Construction Activities

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