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Soil surveys can help you

The Pocahontas Times of Marlinton, West Virginia

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Soil Surveys, available from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are intended for many different users. They can help a homebuyer or developer determine soil-related hazards or limitations that affect home sites. They can help land use planners determine the suitability of areas for housing or on-site sewage disposal systems. They can help farmers estimate the potential crop or forage production of the land. Many people assume that soils are all more or less alike. They are unaware that great differences in soil properties can occur within even short distances. Soils may be seasonally wet or subject to flooding. Some soils have slow infiltration rates when thoroughly wet because of layers that impede the downward movement of water. They may be shallow to bedrock. They may be too unstable to be used as a foundation for buildings or roads. Very clayey or wet soils are poorly suited to septic tank absorption fields. A high water table makes a soil poorly suited to basements or underground installations. When drained and used as home sites, organic soils can subside, endangering the structure. These soil properties and many other that affect land use are given in soil surveys. Each soil survey describes the properties of soils in the county or area surveyed and shows the location of each kind of soil on detailed maps.

"Soil surveys can help in evaluating the suitability of a tract of land for the intended use before buying," said Kevin Wickey, West Virginia State Conservationist. "Where soil maps show that soil-related hazards may damage structures or installations, alternate sites that have favorable soil properties can be selected. Structural designs can also be changed to compensate for the hazards. Among the important soil properties described in soil surveys are: natural soil drainage; per meability; infiltration rate; flood hazard; depth to water table; seasonal wetness; depth to bedrock; stoni-ness; erodibility; acidity and alkalinity; load bearing capacity; slope; content of sand, silt, and clay; shrink-swell potential; risk of corrosion; and soil structure. There are several ways to obtain soil survey information: The most up-to-date information is available for all 55 West Virginia counties is available on the national Web Soil Survey at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.u

Many county soil survey publications, including reports and detailed maps, are available on-line in PDF format. Go to 1 to see if your county is listed.

Call or visit your local NRCS office to discuss soils and land use with the soil conservationist or soil scientist assigned to your county. Service Centers are listed online at, or in the telephone book under United States Government, Agriculture Department.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call 800-795-3272 (voice) or 202-720-6382 (TDD).

Soil surveys can help in evaluating the suitability of a tract of land for the intended use before buying.

~ Kevin Wickey, West Virginia State Conservationist

Original Publication Date: January 19, 2012

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