I have a bad habit of assuming that everyone knows all there is to know about erosion/sediment control– that it fascinates and holds the attention of everyone.
How could people not want to hear everything there is to know about stuff that is everywhere yet blends into the scenery so easily? I just happen to work in a field that uses tons of acronyms and follows codes and permits and regulations and plans and layers of government bureaucracies.
It may not be the most exciting work but in all this chaos we actually get things done and it makes a difference. So what does erosion sediment control have to do with real life?
Well consider the orange and white striped barrels that start popping up along roadways. We all know it means road construction and that can cause some inconvenient detours and delays. But as you slow down while driving through these work areas, maybe you can spot something else in those construction zones.
Yep, you might see something we call erosion/sediment control. It means contractors are doing their jobs and we are doing ours.
Silt fence, inlet protection, slope drains, run-off control, sediment traps and temporary and permanent seeding are all practices installed along these projects or any earth-moving project that disturbs one acre of soil or less if it is part of a larger common plan of development.
These BMPs, or Best Management Practices as we call them, are installed to prevent soil from leaving the site. Once vegetation is removed and soil is exposed, it only takes one rainfall to carry sediment off site and into our streams, ditches and lakes.
Sediment, by volume, is the number one pollutant of our waterways.
Soil particles contained in sediment also carry and retain chemical pollutants such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. So these practices are important and it is important we understand why they are installed.
Who makes them do this stuff and why? It’s not voluntary– it’s mandatory.
Let’s start with a plan. Earth-disturbing projects must have a plan called a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) for each project — before they start.
The SWPPP must contain details of all BMPs that will be installed and maintained during the entire project. Things such as watershed, drainage areas, soils, topography and acres disturbed are all considered in the design process.
Stay with me, it gets even more exciting. A Notice of Intent (N.O.I) is also required for each project by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA). These requirements fall under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES permit, which was established in 1990 through the Federal Clean Water Act.
In addition, in Stark County, for example, the commissioners adopted Storm Water Quality Regulations that meet and, in some cases, exceed OEPA’s regulations. Our office, Stark Soil and Water Conservation District, administers these regulations. So technically, we make them do this stuff as well as OEPA, USEPA and local governments.
But it doesn’t end there.
In order to ensure “clean water”, projects must also install Best Management Practices “post construction.” In other words, some of these BMPs will never be removed and will continue to treat storm water even though you can’t see or understand their function.
Why is this important? Because storm water is not treated. When it rains or snow melts, runoff flows along roads, curbs, gutters, roof tops, lawns and flows into storm pipes, which discharge directly into a stream, ditch, pond or lake. Pollutants go along for the ride.
By installing erosion/sediment control during a project, we keep tons of sediment out of our local water ways. By installing BMPs after construction, we lessen the impacts that project made on our environment.
So, the next time you see the orange and white striped barrels or any earth-moving project for that matter, look for the erosion/sediment control practices. Note the silt fence or inlet protection.
Think of the design, maintenance and cost of installing these practices as well as maintaining the “post construction” practices that you may not even be aware of. Let others know how knowledgeable you are.
Tell them that these BMPs are there to improve, protect and maintain water quality for everyone to enjoy. It may just make the delays or detours a little more tolerable.