Sampling and Surveys

Soil Excavation: Sampling for Import and Disposal


What should I do if my project finds smelly or discolored soil?

Discovery of hazardous materials during excavation is considered an emergency and the EH&S emergency response team should be contacted immediately at (510) 642-3073 including on weekends and after hours. Immediately stop work and isolate and restrict access to the area in question. EH&S will assess the soil. Contaminated soils can only be excavated by a licensed hazardous materials contractor. If the project contractor is not licensed, EH&S will work with you to obtain services of a campus approved hazardous materials contractor.

How long will it take to characterize soil for disposal?

In general, it takes at least one and potentially up to four weeks to complete characterization of soil for off-site disposal, although this can be accelerated in emergencies but at a greater cost. Soil sampling needs to be coordinated with at least 72 hours advance notice and can usually be completed in one day. Standard laboratory analysis turnaround time is 5-7 business days. Sample analysis can be expedited by paying a surcharge. A 24-hour turnaround normally adds a 100% surcharge to the base cost, two-day 75%, and three-day 50%.

For larger projects that need multiple...

How much does soil sampling cost?

Costs vary depending on the number and type of samples, and the requested analytical laboratory analysis turnaround time. Costs can vary from a few hundred dollars for small projects to tens of thousands of dollars for new buildings involving mass excavation.

Sampling costs can also vary according to site area, depth of final excavation needed and how well known the history of the site is. For example:

A utility trench, 30-inches by 48-inches deep, 50-feet long: one to two samples would be taken by EH&S and incurs a cost of $500 each. Larger sites or projects requiring...

How can I get soil sampled?

Soil sampling should be coordinated by contacting EH&S with at least 72 hour notice prior to the proposed sampling.
Contact the EH&S Construction Specialist at the EH&S main office at (510) 642-3073, or at

Can I let my contractor or consultant take soil samples?

Not without EH&S approval. Contractors and engineers must comply with UC Berkeley sampling protocols for proper characterization of soils. Improper sampling poses a legal liability to the University. Only EH&S technicians, or a consultant working under the direction of EH&S, should sample soil.

What is required for importing soil for my project?

It is crucial that your project import only clean fill. Contractor’s must provide you with a statement that the soil is not contaminated and if necessary laboratory data. In some cases, particularly if large amounts of soil are being imported, or if the origin of the soil is not well documented, the University requires that the soil importer provide a description of the soil source, sampling plan, and laboratory analytical results. The project manager should develop a soil import plan with EH&S prior to the project commencing.

Do I have to sample soil excavated from my project?

Soil sampling is required for most excavation projects to assess worker safety and determine disposal requirements. The University has a legal responsibility to verify that we do not haul contaminated soil from the campus or give away pollution if present. Campus Project Managers must coordinate with EH&S prior to beginning excavation to establish a soil sampling and management plan.

What are my options for disposing of unwanted excavated soil?

If the project generates excess soil that cannot be managed on site, there are a few basic options that depend on what is in the soil:

Non-hazardous soil:

If the material is clean, it may be reused at another campus project location, brokered to a non-University off-site construction site, or disposed of at a municipal (sanitary) landfill where it is usually used as landfill cover.

Contaminated soil:

If soil contains contamination such as asbestos, lead paint or other metals, PCBs or...