CONTROLLING SEDIMENT AND EROSION ON CONSTRUCTION SITES
Construction sites result in considerable sediment loss and soil erosion, which is documented as a major reason for water pollution. Bare soil left exposed to rains can quickly erode and move the sediments to nearby streams, lakes, rivers, and storm sewers, affecting plant growth, water quality, and natural soil profile.
Therefore, to minimize the risks of erosion and sedimentation at construction sites, it is essential to implement preventative measures during all construction phases. Soil erosion control and sediment control practices go hand in hand and are among the most important considerations to apply on-site. Ideally, engineers work together to develop strategies and prevent the detachment as well as transportation of soil particles and trap eroding soil.
WHAT IS EROSION?
The erosion process continuously e from one place to another by water, wind, or other natural factors. It is a gradual process and usually happens over time. However, with increased construction activities, erosion issues have surged significantly. Erosion can lead to road washouts, flood hazards, landslides, clogged drainage systems, and poor water quality.
WHAT IS SEDIMENTATION?
Sedimentation is the process of allowing soil particles, minerals, sand, or clay, to deposit in low slope areas. When the residues from soil erosion settle in adjacent water bodies, they alter the water flow, reduce water depth, and affect its quality.
Sedimentation incurs billions of dollars in environmental damage annually. It heavily impacts the sensitive aquatic life and wildlife in the impaired waterways. Sediment pollution also reduces wetlands, coral reef communities, and fishery resources. In addition, expensive rehabilitation programs are utilized to revert water problems.
CAN YOU IGNORE THE PROBLEM?
By neglecting erosion and sedimentation issues, you are essentially passing the problems to the downslopes. Every year, thousands of tons of sediments per acre are generated by construction sites alone. Offsite sedimentation affects plant and animal life, leads to structural damage to roads and properties, and causes the fertile topsoil to decay.
Eroded soil enters water bodies, raises the water level, and leads to inundation. In addition, the damage to the surrounding soil, water bodies, roads, and other properties can result in hefty fines.
Sediments deposited on streets by stormwater runoff can be dangerous for drivers. Besides, other pollutants can attach to the eroded soil and enter nearby water bodies. It prevents marine organisms from reproducing, reduces light penetration, makes photosynthesis difficult, and impairs the water flow impacting its navigational and recreational use.
WHAT IS A SOIL EROSION AND SEDIMENTATION CONTROL (SESC) PLAN?
The idea of having a soil erosion control and sediment control plan is to establish how different control measures will prevent erosion and sedimentation pollution caused by construction activities that may initiate landslides. An average construction site disturbs several cubic yards of land and poses a massive sediment control challenge that requires vigilance and adds to the project's cost.
Fortunately, there are ways to help contain the contamination spread through construction projects. However, all products you use for erosion control must be Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified. You must also be careful with the city and the state documentation, policies, and permits, especially for stormwater management.
EROSION CONTROL BASICS
You must implement the following four basic erosion control principles on your construction project:
Erosion Control: It refers to keeping the bare site soil in place, which is essentially the first line of defense at a construction site.
Sediment Control: The planning here caters to the second line of defense. If erosion control practices are rendered ineffective, sediment control will prevent onsite erosion from leaving the location.
Runoff or Drainage Control: Since erosion results from water, drainage control methods address the construction stormwater needs.
Maintenance: Finally, maintenance of all the management practices is the key to the project’s success. Besides, it will keep you up-to-date with all the measures put in place.
TRY THESE MEASURES
Now that you know the basics, here are some of the essential soil erosion and sediment control practices that you may want to incorporate in your project:
Adherence to Regulations
Knowledgeable engineers always refer to the necessary state regulations formulated keeping erosion control and sediment control in mind. The engineers ensure that the relevant rules are complied with on construction sites.
The soil technician assesses the construction slope as well as the type of soil to obtain more information. The assessment needs to be carried out not only at the construction site but also in surrounding areas. It helps determine the risk of erosion and sedimentation on and around a particular site.
Drainage Control Points
One must protect the drainage control points, i.e., storm drain inlet and outlet, and prevent these from blocking during the construction. In some cases, engineers may suggest installing specific drainage facilities like culverts or trenches to control drainage from the project site. Besides, drainage must be dispersed to vegetative areas, away from slopes, and in multiple locations. Also, using water bars to curb the drainage along the streets is a good idea.
Working in Dry Weather
Besides the necessary control measures, it is essential to carry out any excavation and grading processes on a sunny day and in dry weather. Extreme weather conditions affect productivity and cause project delays.
Reducing Exposed Soil Areas
It is best to perform site excavation in stages. This will help reduce the exposure of bare soil. However, if there still is any exposed soil, it must be seeded, mulched, and graded as soon as possible.
To minimize erosion from disturbed soils, add a surface cover, change slope geometry, apply mulch (with seeds), reinforce the slope with support structures, and create diversions. It is the easiest and most effective approach to address sediment loss.
Installing Sediment Traps
Proactive measures like installing a silt fence during the construction phase keep erosion and sedimentation under control. In addition, soil control and stabilization services prevent water pollution and positively impact the construction processes.
Apart from these pollution control practices, remember that water may be a life force but is your number one enemy when constructing on dirt. Practically, you may also need a ground and stormwater management plan put in place to save your time, energy, and expenses. There is no way things will not go wrong, but you must minimize the environmental impact as much as possible. So when your project complies with the local rules and regulations and is in a proper flow, the chances are that inspection and the overall construction will go right.
SOIL EROSION CONTROL AND SEDIMENT CONTROL SITE PLAN
An erosion control site plan checklist may include a description of the landowner or designated agent, affected parcels, site location map, all predominant features around, and soil survey. More details include the proposed earth changes and their physical limits, existing and suggested site drainage systems, temporary and permanent control measures, utility installations, land clearing, road constructions, and more. The plan must also specify the procedures for installing, maintaining, and/or removing the permanent and temporary soil erosion control and sediment control measures. These are only a few items, but detailed specifics may vary from one plan to the other.
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*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.