Sheetflow Erosion Control Erosion Control for the CESCL

April 7, 2020

Silt Fence Water Bars Fail

Photo: David Jenkins

Whenever I see something like this, it makes me think that the site owner/contractor either didn’t know what they were doing or bit off more project than they could chew, or both. These guys cleared, grubbed and graded something over 80 acres starting in late summer, failed to phase the work, failed to use soil cover practices, failed to listen to the experts and got nailed by the fall rains.

Erosion control is really about water control: reducing volume, preventing it from becoming turbid, and controlling where it goes. By the time the rains hit this project, there was too much water, it was too dirty, and there were too few options for controlling where it went.

In addition, they refused to set up a chitosan-enhanced sand filtration system to treat and discharge water; this left them no options and too much turbid water that had nowhere to go. As a result, they hammered a wetland, were fined heavily, and were shut down for months.

Silt fences are not meant to control water, convey water, filter water; they are designed to control eroded sediment. Ditches, berms (rock, gravel, triangular silt dikes, etc.) would have been better choices at this location. Not opening up so much area so late in the season would have been the best option. Their means and methods did not save them time or money.

October 21, 2019

“Means and Methods” vs. Best Management Practices

Demolition of landside crane rail on a shipping container terminal.

In my experience, managing contractor “means and methods” is more important than using the “right” best management practices. When turbidity is the standard for measuring water quality compliance, as in Washington state, site cleanliness is the key to prevention and compliance.

This contract requires that catch basin inserts be installed in all catch basins within the project boundaries. However, inserts are not at all effective in reducing turbidity in runoff. While removing the crane rail on this container terminal project, the contractor could clean up as the work progresses, place all material removed from the trench onto plastic for later removal, load into a Bobcat bucket, and pick up small debris with a shop vac. I can require these things in the contract that the contractor bids. It may cost extra; the extra cost may be worth it if it reduces my risk. If I tell the contractor after the contract is awarded, I will pay more.

I can also make suggestions during the work, pointing out that keeping things really clean will keep them in compliance with their NPDES permit. If framed in a way that shows benefit to the contractor, meaning reducing risk and cost, they will probably follow the suggestion.

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