Thursday, May 28, 2015


Construction dewatering refers to the methods used to remove accumulated groundwater or surface water by pumping or thru evaporation.  When working on trenches, near a body of water, in areas with a high water table or an area filled because of rains and flooding it is important to understand proper methods for water removal.   Proper Dewatering protocol should be included in a site SWPPP (Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan) for a construction site.  Methods may vary depending on municipality requirements, location of construction and proximity to waterways, lakes and streams.

When determining the type and scale of dewatering methods, some variables that need to be taken into consideration include the amount of water being relocated,  how fast it will travel (pump or gravity?), and the amount and type of impurities in the water.  Water that is pulled out of a ditch with a sump pump may have more sediment than water being removed from an area of a natural lake.  Either way, the water will typically need to be filtered as it is relocated to minimize the effects of erosion and sedimentation.   Water that is potentially polluted may need further treatment, such as using an oil and water separator to make sure that those impurities are not put back into natural waterways.

In almost every case, dewatering will require some kind of filtration to remove impurities from the water as it is removed and directed to a draining area or waterway.   Some of these options include:

•  Filter Sock, filter bag or tube:  Filter Bags come in many shapes and sizes.   As the name states – these bags are a filter that hold in silt and impurities while allowing water to pass thru and drain away.

•  Dewatering Filter Pad – If needed, a dewatering pad allows for additional filtration beyond the sock or bag, using a combination of man-made and natural materials to clean the water.

•  Drainage Ditch with lining (to prevent further erosion) and FLOC Logs.   The Floc Logs are designed for use in flowing conditions for treating turbid water to remove suspended sediment

While the dewatering process is relatively simple, the reasons and methods are designed to protect our environment and require awareness and diligence to maintain the health of our natural waterways.   When dewatering an area, it is always best to be aware of the amount of water, where it is traveling and look for ways to prevent damage to the existing natural landscape.

•  Avoid overland routes that can cause further erosion
•  Choose the best place for the discharge keeping in mind amount of water and flow rate
•  Water leaving the construction site needs to be as clean as the water entering the site
•  All dewatering protocols need to be monitored regularly to avoid filtration failure

Proper Dewatering and SWPPP protocols are important steps in Construction Best Management Practices (BMPs) and should be taken seriously.   For more information contact our knowledgeable staff at 630-554-6655 or by email.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


In the past few years many schools have added to their educational offerings and begun to focus on Science, Technology and Math to encourage kids to learn the types of skills that are needed in our fast moving, technology enhanced lives.   In  today’s top career fields these are crucial skills to survive, however many educators are adding ‘Arts’ to the acronym because they realize that in all fields, creative solutions are the key to success.  Looking at Civil Engineering and Land Surveying it is easy to see where each of these educational components are needed to shape our youth into creative, problem solving professionals to tackle tomorrow’s needs.

Civil Engineering is the overall description that covers a wide range of Engineers who work on Public Projects such as buildings, roads, waterways, energy systems, ocean ports, railroads, and airports. Civil Engineering is broken down into subcategories with many different specialties.   But what does it take to be a Civil Engineer?  How do you know if you should pursue engineering as a career?   There isn’t a set type or hard list that can be used, but in general an Engineer is someone who wants to know how and why things work.  A good engineer is someone who can learn and then creatively apply that learning to different situations and applications.   Engineers by definition are problem solvers who create solutions to improve the world around us and to manage our natural resources.   Good interpersonal skills and an ability to communicate ideas are needed to succeed along with a love of learning.  As new technology, information and techniques are developed, the professionals in this field need to listen, learn and adapt to the continually changing needs of our society.   

Civil Engineering, as opposed to other types of Engineering, is concerned with designing, building
and maintaining public works.  Civil engineers work on construction, renovation, and rebuilding projects. Within the field of Civil Engineering there are various areas of focus including Environmental, Geotechnical, Structural, Hydraulic /Water Resources, and Transportation.  Civil Engineers often work with architects, technologists, and other industry professionals on a single project.  Depending on the project a Civil Engineer may have to split their time between working on design in the office and site visits to ensure the proper construction of their designs.  Some Civil Engineers may also be involved in reviewing government regulations, city ordinances and highway designs.

Land Surveying is a profession which relies on legal analysis and science to determine the size, distance and position of the three-dimensional world around us.  Land Surveyors use the Law, Geometry, Trigonometry, Physics and Engineering Principles to produce official Plats, Mapping and Property Boundary Surveys. Land Surveyors also establish points of reference on the ground that are then used for things like geographic Information Systems (GIS), construction, land transactions and planning.  Attorneys, Civil Engineers, Property Owners and Governmental Agencies depend on Land Surveyors to provide them with accurate information about the land in order to divide property, transact property, plan improvements, maintain drainage and manage the existing natural resources.

Anyone thinking of a career as an Engineer (any kind) or as a Land Surveyor should be proficient at math.  Both Civil Engineering and Land Surveying use their math skills on a daily basis.  While there are great advances in technology, programs and models to assist in their work, a good foundation and understanding of math is still essential.

As our society continues to improve technology, the information that a Land Surveyor or Civil Engineer has to work with is increasingly more precise.  GPS, Satellites, and Computer Software all aid the Land Surveyor in making accurate surveys, mapping topography and showing the shape, size and position of landmarks.  AutoCAD is a frequently used Computer Drafting program that allows the Civil Engineer to put their vision on paper.  Despite these advancements in technology, proper education and training is paramount to providing the public with an accurate and dependable final product.

As the youth of today take interest in Science, Technology, Artistic Creativity and Math they will learn the skills needed to find solutions for tomorrow’s world, but they are not the only ones.  As business professionals, our Civil Engineers and Land Surveyors are required by law and a code of ethics participate in continuing education and development to maintain their edge on the ever advancing world of Technology.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015



             The Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan is considered to be the most important 
              requirement of the General Permit. Each facility covered by this permit is required to 
             develop a plan, tailored to the specific conditions and with the primary goal of controlling 
             pollutants that may be discharged into storm water runoff.  (Illinois EPA.Gov)

As our country has developed, it has become increasingly clear that measures need to be taken to maintain our water resources and protect waterways from pollution.  Over the course of time laws have been created to prevent dumping of industrial waste, use of chemicals that can wash into the waterways and even testing of materials to be used in landfills.  All of this is aimed at the same goal: protecting the water.   This is part of the reason that SWPPP came into existence and is now an important part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program. Any Construction Site that disturbs one or more acres is required to have coverage under the NPDES general permit for storm water discharges from construction activities.

Contractors typically have at least a vague notion of what a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan [SWPPP] entails even if they are uncertain as to exactly how or where it is to be implemented.  

              A SWPPP is more than just a sediment and erosion control plan.  It describes all the 
              construction site operator’s activities to prevent stormwater contamination, control 
              sedimentation and erosion, and comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act. 
              (EPA SWPPP GUIDE pg. 1)

A good SWPPP will incorporate best Engineering Practices (BMPs) using knowledge of the hydrologic and natural features of the land.   In plain English that means a Civil Engineer will use the knowledge they have of the way the water travels to determine where there may be concern for damage to the environment or potential pollution to occur.   Since most developments will require a Civil Engineer in the planning stages, it is frequently the Engineer who will take care of the required Notice of Intent (NOI) to the IEPA and who can then provide the contractor with a SWPPP.  

When developing a site, the contractor then needs to make sure their staff are trained and understand the requirements and implementation of the SWPPP.   Some of these measures include:

     • How and where to install silt fence, 
     • Perform dewatering, 
     • Stabilizing Construction Entrance/Exit to minimize erosion
     • Designated Washout Areas for Concrete
     • Maintain Logs and Regular Inspections

Overall putting a good SWPPP into place is a necessary part of construction and development.   With the right measures contractors and developers can ensure that their project has minimal damage to the local environment by reducing polluted runoff, minimizing erosion and controlling sedimentation.
Need help preparing a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan on your next project?  Just Call (630-554-6655) or Email and we can help!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

BMP: What is it & Why Do I Care?

Let’s start with what is a BMP?  In Civil Engineering and Construction, it typically refers to Best Management Practices.   The ‘Management’ part can vary, depending on who is using the term BMP’s.  A contractor may refer to Managing a Construction Project, but for Civil Engineering the term is almost always used in reference to stormwater and/or surface water runoff.  In general, Best Management Practices (BMPs) is a term used to describe thecontrol of water pollution; the best way to manage your land and youractivities to reduce or prevent pollution of surface and groundwater near you1.   There are a number of ways that pollution can be introduced to a body of water.  Once pollutants are present, it is more difficult and expensive to restore it to its former glory.  The use of BMPs that prevent damage to receiving waters is the target.

Think back to the days of grade school and learning about the water cycle.  The very fundamental cycle of water and how it travels is the key to managing this resource in the best possible way.  Since water is a universal solvent, it easily picks up pollutants such as debris, metals, pesticides, sediment, bacteria, and more as it travels.  If left unchecked, the water can then carry these pollutants into lakes, rivers and streams.  For new developments part of their BMP will be a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan or “SWPPP”.  This Plan is developed and maintained throughout the construction phase of a project to ensure that the newly disturbed ground has a minimal impact on the natural water flow until the project is completed.   Another part of the BMPs for a new development will be the Civil Engineer’s Drawings showing how the earth around a building needs to be shaped, what elevations should be used and what the slope of the ground should be.   Along with the potential water quality issues, urban development can displace water and create an increase in flooding and add to the amount of water that is causing erosion or sedimentation.  These changes can also cause a change in vegetation and decrease of native wild life.  This is where Effective Management or ‘Best Management Practices’ (BMPs) become important.  Stormwater BMPs are techniques, measures or structural controls used to manage the flow and improve the quality of stormwater runoff and will be incorporated into the Civil Engineers Plans.
Typical BMP techniques used to control the flow of water and improve water quality include such measures as detention ponds, grass swales, natural plantings, and natural filters.  The techniques used for each development will differ depending on variables such as water table, typical rainfall, wetlands, overland flood routes, surrounding developments, and available drainage. 

By: Rashida Pflipsen / Rebecca Luginbill

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Steps for a Happy New Year

As we come to the end of the year, it seems paradox, but instead of finishing projects - this is the time of year when new projects get started. Many companies, schools and businesses are focused on next years’ budgets and the work that will go with them. As you step into the New Year, there is a process needed to successfully get a construction or renovation project off the ground for next spring. If you haven’t already, now is the time to consider the first key step: Funding.

Every project is different, and yet they each have the same basic key elements. No matter how big or small a project is there are important steps to be taken. Funding may seem like an obvious matter, but it is an absolute necessity. Many times Funding will go hand in hand with choosing the right design professional for the project. Is it a new building or renovation? Then an Architect will need to be on your team. Are you doing earthwork or site improvements? A Civil Engineer can help. Hiring a quality professional up front can save time and money with possible solutions before you build. You will also want to have full knowledge of the property you hope to develop. Accurate Surveys, Site Assessments with Historical Data, and Geo-technical Reports, sometimes referred to as “due diligence,” can help determine the property value and the feasibility of using the parcel for the project you have in mind.

Once you have your team in place, the designing can begin. A ‘Schematic Design’ would be the first design steps, some of which can include the above mentioned research. Designs can change based on utilities, drainage, soil conditions, municipalities, or other factors that come up during the continuing research on a piece of land. This first design stage helps to shake out the issues that will need to be handled during the construction process. 

 The ‘Design Development’ Stage continues this design process, refining the plans as decisions are made and issues are resolved. Once the designs are complete, the design professional can issue Construction Documents for bidding. Your design professional can help with the bidding as needed and oversee, answer questions, and provide guidance throughout the construction process including coordination with municipalities and resolution of any issues regarding the design.

At the end of the project, the Close-out will help to tie up loose ends, ensure that any construction issues are resolved and provide the corrections needed for the final occupancy and use of the developed parcel. It sounds like a simple enough process, but having the right team for your project can make the difference between a timely success and a long, expensive road to misery. I’m going to wish you the first – a Happy and Successful New Year with the right people on your team.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


It’s November – a traditional time of year for people to stop and think about what they are thankful for in their day to day lives.  Personally, I’m thankful for hot water and for the engineers who figured out how to create a water system that provides me with a constant supply of clean, potable water.   Have you ever thought of all the things that wouldn’t be part of your day today without Engineers?    Things like roads, clean water, bridges, Drainage to prevent flooding and so much more are all because we have Engineers to create, innovate and improve the infrastructure that makes modern society possible.

Water Filter Experiment [Click Here]
These improvements are only part of the reason we can be thankful for Engineers and why so many schools in America are looking at their STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math curriculum as a means to promote interest in these critical fields.  As our society grows in technology, it is becoming increasingly important for schools to foster critical thinking in students, increase their abilities in the STEM fields, and enable this generation to continue to create new and innovative solutions for our needs today, tomorrow and for years to come.    

As part of this effort, MeritCorp Employees spent two hours investing in the future of America at the Crone Middle School STEM night [11-19-14].   Crone Middle School, like many other schools in Illinois, invited working professionals from various businesses to show the students the real life application for STEM curriculum.   

Since Civil Engineering is a broad umbrella, we used a video from the American Society of Civil Engineers [ASCE] called  “What do Civil Engineers Do?” to help the students get a better understanding of the varied options available.   We then did a hands-on project where the students learned the basics of an industrial water filter.   This visual helped the students to see one real-life application of Civil Engineering Knowledge.

We hope that all of the students who came and participated in the STEM night went home with a renewed excitement and interest in the Science and Engineering Fields.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spring, Summer, Construction, Winter…..

Fall is here, but are you ready?  Ready for the construction, snow, and really bad pot-holes next Spring?  You drive thru the construction…bounce thru the pot-holes, but have you thought about what those crews on the side of the road are doing?  Ever wonder about the constant work to maintain our roads and what could be the cause of the giant pot-hole you just found?  To answer this, let’s take a look at just three of the factors to asphalt degradation:  How the road was made, who drives on the road, and where the road was built.  

The first area to look at is the design of the road.  The region where you live and the type of soil that is available is a factor affecting the lifecycle of the roads you use.  Sub-base failure or poor quality soil along with poor compaction can greatly reduce the life of the roads.  Too much clay or silt can affect the ability of the road to drain properly.   An Engineer needs to ask themselves: Is there adequate drainage for spring thaws and heavy water flow?  Will it hold the weight of snow plows and buses?  What utilities are buried in the area?  What is the climate where the road will be built?  All of these are important considerations in designing any road, drive or parking lot.   

Alligator Cracking
Have you ever seen a parking lot where the asphalt got too warm and a big truck left a tire mark?  High temperatures soften the asphalt binder and allow the weight of heavy tires to deform the
Even in more moderate temperatures over-loading can cause problems.  If the sub-base is not adequately compacted or if too many heavy vehicles are on a roadway early cracking and deterioration may occur.  Prior to designing a roadway, the Civil Engineer needs to know about the amount of use the road will have, the weight of the vehicles and speed they will travel.   If you begin to think about this as you travel, you will notice that many truck stops, shipping facilities, and highways use concrete instead of asphalt so it can withstand the heavy traffic.  It won’t stop the normal process of deterioration over time, however, knowing the intended use of the roadway or parking lot is essential in designing the right solution.

One of the worst enemies of asphalt is water damage including: 

- Water caught under the asphalt causing soft soil    
   conditions or freezing which becomes frost heave. (Silt or Clay is more susceptible)
-  Poor drainage allows water to get into cracks and begins eroding the sub-base.
-  Freezing / Thawing can push asphalt apart at cracks, leave voids in the sub-base and cause 
-  The ground thaws from the top down which can trap water between the asphalt and frozen ground 
    causing soft soil.

Other weather factors can include hot weather, making asphalt soft and/or causing the asphalt to oxidize making it stiffer and less resilient.  Cold weather can also make the asphalt stiffer and less resilient causing cracks that allow even more water to get in and under it and cause damage.
Other Environmental elements that can affect the life of an asphalt road include tree roots that push up from underneath, changes to the ground under a road such as sinkholes, nearby erosion, or continuous chemical exposure from vehicles in high traffic areas.

Even the best made Asphalt road won’t last forever and for many municipalities the balance between budget and maintenance is an ongoing issue.   With this information in mind you can watch construction crews with a new perspective and think about these key factors to asphalt paving:
-  Build on a firm foundation and use the best sub-grade material available
-  Compact!  The more dense it is, the stronger it is
-  Design for the region ensuring adequate drainage for spring thaw and heavy water flow
-  Know the traffic load and use
-  Maintain the road by sealing cracks, keeping it clear of water, check ditches and drains

Hopefully this has given you a basic understanding of how and why the potholes form and the basic cause and effect of water, weather and usage on Asphalt.   If you still have questions or need to know more for a project, you can contact us by phone at 630.554.6655 or email.  You can also check out our website for a list of our services.