Scoping Out Scour

by Thomas J. Fenner, Geophysicist/Application Engr.; Geophysical Survey Systems, Inc., North Salem, NH,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1993, Vol. 63, Issue 3, Pg. 75-77

Document Type: Feature article


Bridge scour�soil erosion around piers and pilings�threatens tens of thousands of bridges across the U.S. Traditionally, engineers have mapped bridge scour by driving probes into the subbottom or having divers perform visual inspections. Increasingly, inspectors are relying on nondestructive testing tools (such as subsurface interface radar and marine seismic systems) that can provide more precise data more quickly. These systems fall into two catagories: postflood measurement systems, and real-time systems that monitor the streambed during floods. They can also be portable or fixed systems. However, each scour measurement method, whether used after or during a flood, has strengths and weaknesses, depending on the type and depth of the water and the subbottom conditions. What is crucial for engineers and bridge inspectors to remember is that these techniques and traditional methods, are complementary, not mutually exclusive. Public sector agencies including the Federal Highway Administration, approximately 17 state highway agencies, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and the U.S. Geological Survey have joined forces to conduct some tests of the technology. Applications are discussed.

Subject Headings: Scour | Seismic tests | Highways and roads | Geological surveys | Floods | Bridges | Bridge engineering

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