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Assessing Seawall Integrity - Techniques and Best Practices

seawall erosion repair


Seawalls are critical infrastructures that protect coastal communities from erosion and storm surges. However, these structures are subject to a variety of stresses and environmental factors that can compromise their integrity over time. Regular assessments are essential to ensure they continue to perform their protective function effectively. If you do happen to find something amiss during one of these routine inspections, you’ll have the time to address it before greater damage occurs.


Let’s explore the various techniques and best practices used to assess integrity and repair erosion behind seawall


Visual Inspection


The first and most straightforward assessment technique is visual inspection. Professionals such as engineers and inspectors will look for visible signs of damage such as cracks, misalignments, or erosion at the base of the wall. Special attention is given to any signs of uneven settling or tilting, which could indicate problems with the foundation. Routine visual inspections are crucial and should be conducted at least annually, or after major storm events.


Geotechnical Testing


Geotechnical soil testing involves examining the soil and rock surrounding the seawall to assess stability and the potential for subsurface erosion or undermining. Techniques such as soil borings and core sampling can provide valuable information about the soil properties behind and beneath the seawall. These tests help in understanding how well the seawall's foundation can withstand current and future environmental pressures.


Structural Health Monitoring


Advanced techniques include the use of structural health monitoring systems that employ sensors to collect real-time data on a seawall’s condition. These sensors can measure parameters such as tilt, strain, and pressure changes over time. By continuously monitoring these parameters, it’s possible to detect early signs of distress that may not be visible through visual inspection alone.


Lidar and Drone Surveys


Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) and drone technologies offer non-intrusive means to assess seawall conditions. Lidar can generate precise, three-dimensional images of the seawall and its immediate surroundings, revealing erosional patterns or structural weaknesses. Similarly, drones can be used to capture high-resolution images of areas that are difficult to reach through ground-based inspections.


Ultrasonic Testing


Ultrasonic testing is utilized to detect internal flaws in the materials that make up the seawall. This technique uses high-frequency sound waves that reflect off imperfections within the structure, such as voids, cracks, or zones of degradation. It’s particularly useful for concrete and metal seawalls where internal corrosion or cracking might occur.


Hydrodynamic Modeling


Understanding the forces acting on a seawall from waves and tides can also provide valuable assessments of its structural integrity. Hydrodynamic models simulate these forces and predict how they might affect the seawall under various scenarios, including rising sea levels and increased storm intensity due to climate change. This predictive approach allows for proactive management strategies.


Best Practices


In addition to these techniques, there are several best practices that should be followed in the assessment of seawall integrity:


  • Regular Monitoring. Establish a regular schedule for inspections and stick to it, while also being responsive to any events that might necessitate immediate assessment.

  • Comprehensive Documentation. Maintain detailed records of all inspections, assessments, and repairs. This documentation can be invaluable for tracking changes over time and planning future interventions.

  • Community Involvement. Keep local communities informed and engaged in the maintenance and monitoring of seawalls. Public awareness can be crucial in spotting potential problems early.

  • Best Repair Methods. If work needs to be done, it’s typically best to choose the most effective yet least invasive method. Depending on the damage, potential repair methods might include backfilling, installing proper drainage, planting vegetation, or lifting the wall with polyurethane foam.  


Repair Erosion Behind Seawall


By employing a mix of these assessment techniques and adhering to best practices, coastal communities in Mississippi can significantly enhance the effectiveness and longevity of seawalls. To learn more about repairing your seawall, contact Foremost Foundations and Construction today.


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