All About Dredging & the Environment

Environmental dredging

Dredging: environmental impact

Dredging is often associated with pollution, contaminated soils, CO2 emissions or other negative environmental impact. Yet, the positive perspective and nature improvements dredging can achieve are often overlooked. The word “dredge” itself is defined as the act of cleaning and clearing “the bed of (a harbour, river, or other area of water) by scooping out mud, weeds, and rubbish with a dredge” by Oxford Dictionary.

dredging and the environment

Accordingly, dredging is an activity, which to a large extent focuses on improvement of our society, businesses and even the environment itself. Furthermore, due to constant environmental and societal developments such as climate change, population growth and pollution, dredging is becoming an increasingly important protective process.

How can dredging improve the environment?

While there is a variety of dredging objectives, a large range of applications focus on improvement of the environment and nature protection. Some of these applications are discussed below.

Dredging rivers to prevent flooding

Due to natural weathering and erosion, sand, silt and debris are constantly washed downstream. Sediments gradually fill up rivers, channels or canals making them very shallow and creating blockage. As a result, waterways become inaccessible to ships. Furthermore, blockage can cause water to flow over the river banks, flooding the surrounding area. Therefore, shallow waters can have major impacts on local businesses and even become a safety hazard to the surrounding residents and wildlife.

River dredging is an example of an application with the objective of nature protection. It ensures not only waterway accessibility for ships, but also protection and safety of people and wildlife in the area.

Environmental dredging to clean contaminated soils

channel dredging landscape

Currently, one of the bigger issues that waterways face are polluted and contaminated soils, which become an environmental threat. Contaminated soils can negatively affect the environment and its inhabitants. In this case, environmental dredging is an effective method to remove polluted sediments. The soils must be cleaned in a controlled and precise manner, without spreading the pollutants in the surroundings. Accordingly, dredging solutions are continuously evolved to ensure precise dredging, which will not harm the environment or the operators involved.

Mine tailing removal for environmental safety

Dredge Yard mine tailing removal dredging landscape

Mining operations such as coal or gold mining can produce tailings, which are finely crushed rock and mineral byproducts of the operations. Tailings often contain leftover chemicals, which can be dangerous and must be regularly cleaned to not harm the environment. Storage and handling of tailings has become a major environmental issue worldwide, where dredging is an effective solution to protect the surrounding environment.

Dredging reservoirs for clean & safe water supply

Reservoir, lake & dam dredging landscape

Dams, reservoirs and lakes play an important role in our society. They provide power and drinking water, as well as act as an energy source and habitat for various plants and animals.  Just as in rivers, natural weathering, erosion and pollution threaten these water resources by clogging them up. Sediments can also contain chemical precipitates, which are especially harmful to the environment and life. This is another example, where dredging provides an effective solution to ensure clean, safe and sufficient water supply for the environment and life within it.

Environmental precautions when dredging

As discussed above, dredging is often an efficient solution to cleaning and improving the environment. Nevertheless, some aspects of these dredging projects must be considered in order to ensure minimal negative impacts on the nature.

Dredging equipment

all dredger engineered design

When it comes to dredging equipment – size matters, and bigger is not always better. In the dredging industry – dredger types & sizes vary from one-container-transportable to grandiose vessels, such as the Spartacus. It is immensely important to evaluate project conditions and choose the right equipment for your dredging project. An undersized dredger will not fulfil project requirements and can ultimately lead to additional costs. Choosing oversized equipment can unnecessarily break the budget. Furthermore, naturally, larger equipment requires more power and thus, has higher fuel consumption, which results in increased COemissions. Therefore, aside from increased expenses, choosing oversized equipment can also needlessly harm the environment.

Types of dredging methods

Choosing the right equipment goes hand in hand with the right dredging method. Some dredging methods can be considered more environmentally friendly than others. Thus, it is important to evaluate what is the most sufficient method for both – project requirements and environmental conditions.

Water Injection Dredging Diagram

Water Injection dredging is one example of the more environmentally friendly dredging solutions. One of the key aspects of this method is the fact that it involves nature itself in the dredging process by using water currents for material transportation. Additionally, water injection dredging does not involve material removal from the ecosystem. This contributes to sustainability of natural ecosystems that are vital in natural waterway processes.

There are also a variety of economic advantages of this dredging method, though it requires very specific environmental conditions to be sufficient. Find more about water injection dredging here.

Dredged material as a resource

cutter suction dredger 200 production

Whenever dredged material does not involve any pollutants, it should be considered as a valuable resource, which can easily be reused. Dredged, clean sediment can be used for a variety of different applications such as beach nourishment, land reclamation, soil improvement, construction materials and more. Multiple dredging projects with different objectives (e.g. maintenance and capital dredging) are often combined in order to achieve the highest benefit of the project. In this way, the environment is protected from immense impact of unnecessarily many dredging activities. Additionally, if not reused, dredged material is simply disposed of. This is an expensive solution, which can also harm the environment and habitats in the disposal areas.

ECO-friendly equipment

There is a variety of nature-friendly dredging objectives and precautions that can be taken to protect the environment. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that dredging has certain negative impacts, as it is a form of interference with the ecosystem. Due to this, the dredging industry is increasingly focusing on new, innovative and green solutions, which would minimize any harm to the environment.

Adaptive auger head

adaptive auger head dredger

One of such ECO-friendly solutions is the adaptive auger head. Dredge Yard introduced the adaptive auger head system, which due to a strong suction vacuum, closely follows the ground when dredging. As a result, the adaptive auger head protects the marine animals from entering the suction system. It also causes minimal to no turbidity and accurately removes even the thinnest layers of sediment. Therefore, it is not only protective of the marine animals, but also of the general environment, especially when contaminated sediments are involved.

Additionally, our Auger dredger ECO 200 is equipped with the ECO-friendly system for environmental dredging. However, the adaptive auger head can also be purchased separately to upgrade existing dredgers. In this way, it can increase dredger efficiency, protect the environment and prolong your existing dredger life.

Spare parts

All dredge ball joints

As an additional service, Dredge Yard offers dredge components from stock. We want to encourage maintenance, upgrading and modification of durable dredgers for a variety of applications. In this way, overproduction and rapid equipment disposal can be avoided.

Green(er) Future

Dredge Yard strives for a greener future, where dredging will not cause any negative impacts on the nature and its inhabitants. Therefore, we are constantly researching the newest technologies in order to design and engineer more efficient, greener dredging solutions.

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