Playing with blocks...in the road
Anyone old enough to remember when “Styrofoam” was considered detrimental to the environment (it can last for decades in a landfill) will appreciate the latest usage of this same technology in rebuilding our infrastructure. Many of us fondly remember the fun we had playing with building blocks as a child, e.g. Lego’s®. In today’s construction world, EPS Geofoam (expanded polystyrene), has become commonplace in our infrastructure—as an adult version of building blocks.
EPS Geofoam is a lightweight alternative to soil and gravel when used as structural backfill in highways, runways, bridges, embankments and parking lots. The biggest advantage besides being a replacement for soil and dirt is that EPS Geofoam can easily be covered with landscaping to resemble a natural slope or embankment. Due to its ability to be shaped to fit an application on-site it provides an aesthetic benefit over traditional materials. Some of the other benefits of EPS Geofoam include: accelerated construction; installation in adverse weather; reduced requirement for earthmoving equipment; decreased labor; and easier repair of slope failures.
Of course, with all this good news there is usually an “Achilles heel” and EPS Geofoam is no exception. Fortunately, there is also an excellent solution to this problem. First, the concern: EPS Geofoam is not compatible with petroleum products. This is an issue when it comes to tanker spills. In the past, the problem has been addressed by protecting EPS Geofoam by encasing it in concrete or creating concrete walls. However, there is a much more economical and practical solution to this problem. The answer is to utilize a petroleum resistant geomembrane (PRG), such as EPT EPSWrap™ HPL 7087-45120 513, a 45 mil, reinforced EIA geomembrane, as a protective, sealed “bag,” essentially packaging each block of EPS Geofoam with the fabric. This type of reinforced geomembrane product is not new; in fact, it has been used for a wide range of environmental and waterproofing applications for over 30 years.
“One of the added benefits of the PRG geomembrane such as EPT’s XTRM Ply® is that, due to it’s inherent flexibility, it can be prefabricated into large panels by a qualified fabrication facility, taking advantage of a climate-controlled environment,” remarked Mark DeSandre, geomembrane sales manager, Frank Roberts and Sons, Inc., “This allows fabricators to seam, test the seams, fold/package and ship to the jobsite in large panel sizes, minimizing or even eliminating more problematic field seams, which would otherwise need to be done in the elements, and subject to site conditions.”
The utilization of a reinforced geomembrane provides the necessary strength required to handle the loads created by the soils covering the EPS Geofoam, as well as providing resistance, in the case of a spill, to a wide range of petroleum and petro-chemical based liquids. Many state DOTs are now specifying EIA polymer alloy, reinforced geomembranes, which are resistant to gasoline, for protecting EPS Geofoam.
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