View Full Version : would you take a chance on free fill dirt?

Lambie Boat
Jan. 20, 2009, 06:18 AM
local construction company is looking for a place to dump fill dirt in the springtime. They say it will be 'clean' with no cement, wood, glass or anything I asked about that wouldn't be good with horses around. We have lots of low ground which becomes standing water and mud. So I thought fill dirt might be the answer to build up the ground eventually and gravel costs a mint.

would you take a chance? has anyone accepted free fill dirt? Is this even a good idea?

Jan. 20, 2009, 06:50 AM
My DH's orchardist friend took the asphalt debris from the road project in front of his house. He used it instead of gravel or rock for the farm roads and was very very pleased, not to mention that the road contractor went out of his way to see that the orchard got a little wider entryway, used his equipment to spread it etc.

If you have been planning to raise your grades anyway, this should be good. Just remember you may have to grade the heaps they leave, it may make horrible mud until it settles, and it may require a top dressing of topsoil to be any good for pasture. Also some jurisdictions want permits for fill. A family member stored heaps of fill on a lot he owned, the neighbor complained, and the county made him erosion fence the stuff.
I'd also want to know exactly where the dirt came from - possible contamination issues of it were from, say, under a former gas station. Not so much from a new subdivision, but you never know.

Basically it depends on whether you are already prepared to use it or it creates new headaches.

Jan. 20, 2009, 07:38 AM
We've gotten loads of 'clean' fill from the township several times. Their version of clean included lovely things like bed springs, broken bottles, bricks, broken cement blocks and lots of aluminum cans! :eek: So just be prepared for the worst!

The last load was the grading that they did along the road edges - much, much better and it went on the lane at the top of the farm to fill in an area that gets boggy when it rains. Of course it was totally clean (especially since it was going into a non-horse area)! :rolleyes:

Jan. 20, 2009, 08:06 AM
When they rebuilt the expressway thru here, we got their concrete chunks to fill in three large ditches.
For letting them dump that, they put good road base for over a mile of our dirt road, free, many, many truckloads of it, that would have cost us several thousands if we had to pay for that.

Those companies work on time and if they can dump close, it saves them thousands in their contracts, so they are very thankful to those that work with them.

Be sure that the fill you get is as clean as you speak for.
Ours had a few crushed soda pop cans, from the barditches, that we have been removing as we find them, but that is a small inconvenience for the advantage of now being able to use an all weather road, not be stuck here when it rained, until the road dried out.

If they bring you a contract to sign, spend the little it will cost you to run it by an attorney.
Never, ever sign something without one looking at it.
Be sure what they told you is stated there in writing, that it will be only xyz in what they dump on you, like "clean dirt and gravel no larger than x", no other materials".

Jan. 20, 2009, 10:49 AM
We usually get free fill dirt in the spring when people are having pools installed. It usually has a little debris in it but nothing horrible.

Funny thing is that yesterday someone came to the barn to try to "give" us two free loads of asphalt and they offered to pave the drive and steamroll it for us....for free.

I don't want "part" of my driveway paved and the crushed stone I have now is working very, very well. I come to find out from my neighbors that this was a scammer. They went there (a religious children's home)after coming to me. The children's home had received advance warning that these people were in the area. They offer it to you for free but then give you a bill and apparently in many of their scams the people will negotiate down to get rid of the scammers, but the scammers still get away with money.

Sentry Chick
Jan. 20, 2009, 12:02 PM
Depends on what they are digging up. Is it coming from an old commicial site? The material could be contaiminated with spilled fuel, oil, ect that would make it DEC unsafe. If they are digging up an old road or something like that, sure take it.

Jan. 20, 2009, 12:19 PM
How do you find the companies looking to dump some fill?

I have an erosion problem on the dam side of my farm pond and would LOVE to let someone dump some free fill (concrete chunks, dirt, whatever) to fill the erosion hole. I priced having rock hauled in to fix the problem and at the moment, $4,000 for the amount of rock it would take is not available in my budget.

Jan. 20, 2009, 12:29 PM
I guess it depends on what you use it for and what you can stand. I got a bunch of free dirt from a yard once. It looked great and loamy, but in fact it had a bunch of oxalis roots in it. Now my whole yard front and back is filled with oxalis. Yuk.

Jan. 20, 2009, 12:33 PM
If you don't mind the worst local soil that your area offers, free fill can be OK. Around here, "free fill" means "clay", and I wouldn't TAKE money to have it. :lol:

Jan. 20, 2009, 05:26 PM
Call highway contracting companies, concrete companies, builders, dirt work excavators and ask them if they have any fill or know who does in your area.
You can find names in the yellow pages or on the sides of the trucks in construction zones on highways.
Our county commissioner called us about letting this company resurfacing the highway dump their concrete chunks for our erosion ditches.
Try your court house.

Here, we have a coal electric plant and you can get fly ash for the hauling and some times they have other materials available.

Jan. 20, 2009, 08:34 PM
If you know who you are dealing with, you might be ok. But in the north east, anyway, "clean fill" is sometimes contaminated with toxic waste. Organized crime, which is a big player in the garbage industry, will mix in construction and demolition waste, or medical waste (some of it radioactive) etc. and try and dump it for free. They make big bucks taking in the toxic stuff, if they can dump it for free they've just made a bundle!

I am not saying that all fill is like this, by any means. Just be aware that some bad guys dump bad things on innocent people.

I realize compared to a lot of the earlier posts this one sounds a little nutty. I learned all this when there were plans for a transfer station on my road and it turns out organized crime was involved (in my small, rural town!). I did a lot of research; there's a case about twenty miles from me where a landowner agreed to take in clean fill to level a field where he held flea markets; it turns out it was contaminated and it became (at the time I did my research) one of the state's largest toxic waste sites.

So do be careful before taking anything in.

Jan. 20, 2009, 10:11 PM
Hi there;

I am an environmental engineering consultant. I personally would only take soil onto my property if the company provides me with copies of laboratory testing results that prove the soil is uncontaminated. Here in Ontario, the requirements would be that the soil meets the standards set out by a specific regulation (Regulation 153). I would ask to see copies of the lab results for something like one soil sample for every 50 tonnes of soil. And ask them where the soil is coming from (as others have mentioned) - the soil should be tested for the contaminants which may be present at that particular property. If in doubt, give your local municipality a call and they can advise you on what is required.

I would also want to see if the soil contains alot of rubbish (again as others have mentioned) because if it does, the soil is not geotechnically stable and will settle alot after its been placed. If the construction site is close, you may be able to ask the company to come over and compact the soil for you in exchange for saving them money on shipping costs. You also don't want alot of topsoil or loam in the mix, because it will settle just as much.

Tom King
Jan. 20, 2009, 10:31 PM
I'd go look at the site where they are digging it up from and then decide.

Jan. 20, 2009, 11:46 PM
We got a bunch and I wish we hadn't. I think we got about 25 loads, from when they were digging out the ditches along the side of the road. I have spent numerous hours pulling broken glass, metal, old cans etc out of it. It was dirty and had loads of HUGE seashells in it (???). Anyway, really didn't like it and the hassle of cleaning it up was worse than spending the money to buy dirt.

Having said that, we bought 500 (yes, 500) truck loads of dirt to help a problem on our property and the first half of those were absolutely awful. I think they were dug from the bottom of a pond and just stank like nothing on earth and were full of rotting branches. We had to stop those guys half way through and get someone else.

Lambie Boat
Jan. 23, 2009, 08:52 AM
ok, I thought it might be more complicated than I thought.....I just have such a hard time paying money for things like air, water, dirt, fertiziler,....:lol:

i was thinking about stuff like glass but did not think about oxalis or weeds or toxic materials or seashells or organized crime! wow. more trouble than it's worth. and, around here, it might also be clay. double ick.

Jan. 23, 2009, 02:07 PM
Fei-- you're in my area, and I"ve had really good luck with fill dirt. Ask if you can drive by where they are hauling from, you'll have a great idea of what is in it. If they are prepping building sites on raw ground, you're good. An old construction site? Steer clear.

You'll need a tractor to spread it. And, be careful of filling low spots. The water wants to go somewhere, and you might create other issues that you just didn't need by filling. We now have a rivulet through our sacrifice area due to filling by the barn.

Jan. 23, 2009, 02:28 PM
We got fill dirt once for the base for a riding ring. Nice and clean, we thought ... except for the rattlesnake eggs ...

Jan. 23, 2009, 03:13 PM
I got fill dirt once at an old place and paid 100.00 for a dump truck load. There was nothing in it at all except some rocks. Now some of the rocks were HUGE but it was great for filling in the holes in the floor of stalls at the old ass barn that came with the house we rented. I won't go with free because no telling what you'll get but if you pay for it then it will be clean ;)

Jan. 23, 2009, 07:16 PM
north east, anyway, "clean fill" is sometimes contaminated with toxic waste.
Must be a NY thing. Town not too far away expanded their high school building. EXACT same situation, toxic landfill, but discovered too late, so kids go to a building built on toxic land. I would take the advice of those who say "test it". You could end up with a EPA cleanup order or worse, be unable to sell your land after that. To remove underground domestic oil tanks (for storing house heating oil), you must get a certificate of inspection of the soil around it. If they find leakage, it costs tens of thousands of dollars to clean up and you can not sell your house without the cleanup (by law). [I don't know if that is just by town, city, or state law, or if applies anywhere else, but research it first!]

Jan. 24, 2009, 12:58 AM
I have worked on too many environmental clean-ups to not test any fill dirt. IT is always expensive to clean-up and the clean-up and monitoring seem to go on forever. I am definitely paranoid on this subject.

Jan. 24, 2009, 11:29 AM
When I moved in, my place was a mess (this is an understatement) and I spent the first year cleaning up and getting ready to be able to move my horse home. The people had a good 3 foot drop from the barn floor (it was a car workshop when they lived here) and the ground outside in what became my paddock. I got many, many yards of free fill from the county, which was excavating a hillside to install rock fence (to keep the rocks from tumbling into the road). It was mostly sand, but had some larger rocks here and there. I was so thankful and it has worked out wonderfully. I would say absolutely go for it if you think it will help you. It would have cost thousands had I had to pay for it.

Jan. 25, 2009, 12:54 AM
Nope. Years ago when I boarded, BO had county bring free fill dirt for pasture. Not long after, I turned my horse out and a minute later I see my horse holding his leg up with blood spurting from it. When I went out to get him, I could see there was a big piece of metal strapping tape that had been in the fill dirt that county delivered and that's what he cut his leg on.

I was alone at the barn, and thank God I had quarters for the pay phone (this was before cell phones). I could not stop the bleeding and I don't think the receptionist at the vet _quite_ believed me when I told her my horse was going to bleed to death if someone did not get there soon. By the time the vet finally got there, it looked like a horror movie - I was covered in blood, the wash rack was covered with blood, the pay phone was covered with blood. Horse had cut his digital artery and vet guessed he'd lost 1/4 of his blood. He had to stich it AND put a cast on it for insurance that the stitches did not tear out (since if it happened in the middle of the night, he probably WOULD bleed to death.) It all resulted in a big vet bill for me, a long layup and labor-intensive care for my horse and he had a permanently large leg forever due to the cast.

So, no, I am happy to pay for fill dirt from an actual sand pit and would not take fill dirt without a 'pedigree.'

Jan. 27, 2009, 10:47 AM
Another thing to consider is that many counties require a permit to dump the dirt, or that you build a construction access road to get to the spot where you want the dirt put. I was looking at getting fill dirt from the road construction that is going on nearby (they are putting in 4 roundabouts) to help with putting in our ring this spring, and the costs for the permit is outrageous (around $750!), not to mention having to dump the huge rock (A 3?) at the bottom of the driveway for them to bring the trucks in. Sigh.