Soil erosion is a natural part of stormwater runoff, which can disrupt local ecological systems.
However, since construction sites tend to aggregate lots of toxic materials, many natural barriers may be less effective if significant erosion occurs at the worksite. Therefore, erosion control is necessary for preventing pollution via sediment disruption and failing to stop or slow down toxic materials that escape from worksites.
Let’s discuss some temporary sediment and erosion control solutions that have helped our clients succeed.
The Importance of Erosion and Sediment Control
While many consider pesticides and other toxic compounds common aquatic pollutants, sediment is one of the most common.
If left unchecked, sediment and soil erosion can lead to a loss of aquatic life, disruption of native habitats, and even pollution of drinking water sources, which impact human lives.
There are several reasons why erosion control is essential from an environmental perspective and can benefit companies financially.
- Prevents ecological pollution
- Ensures proper SWPPP and NPDES compliance
- Prevents damage to worksites, roads, and other man-made materials
- Allows for easier stabilization once construction ceases
Proper controls, or BMPs, must be implemented to prevent soil erosion. These BMPs can range from natural vegetation to artificial barriers, which trap sediment and allow for them to be properly disposed of.
Let’s discuss some best practices related to planning projects and implementing proper BMPs for soil erosion.
Erosion Control Best Practices
- Check for signs of potential erosion (compacted soil, lack of nutrients, lack of vegetation).
- Divert run-off to secured locations to maintain proper control of stormwater discharge.
- Stabilize all disrupted soil immediately after construction activities have ceased.
- Adapt BMPs to your site’s topography (e.g., slopes and soil samples).
- Use construction exits to prevent erosion onto public roads.
- Use downpipes and retention basins to prevent erosion before sediment runoff.
- Install perimeter fencing and controls around the circumference of the worksite for sediment control.
- Use riparian buffers near any water sources located on the site.
- Use erosion control blankets during reseeding to properly protect exposed soil.
- Protect all storm drain inlets and discharge locations with proper barriers.
- Apply mulch on slopes to protect exposed soil and to slow runoff.
- Employ rocks and vegetation in ditches for proper erosion control.
Erosion Control vs. Sediment Control
Another important aspect of applying the proper control methods to any construction site is distinguishing between sediment and erosion control.
Erosion control is designed to prevent topsoil erosion, eventually leading to loose sediment. Once erosion control fails, sediment control is taken as a last-resort option to prevent fine sediment particles from being swept up by stormwater runoff.
With that said, let’s explore some common erosion control measures and then list some common sediment control measures to provide a clear distinction.
Temporary Erosion Control BMPs
Erosion control solutions often include affordable and non-invasive controls that are easy to set up and uninstall. That’s why we recommend starting with erosion control solutions whenever possible.
Erosion Control Blankets
Erosion control blankets or matting consist of straw, coconut, or man-made fibers that are placed directly over the soil to protect them from runoff. These blankets help the soil retain its moisture and can be applied to flat surfaces, ditches, slopes, or where soil is found.
Temporary seeding allows vegetation to establish deep roots and help protect the topsoil. Using services like hydroseeding will enable seeds to be applied to large areas with little effort.
Wattles and Jute Netting
Both materials are biodegradable and made of natural materials like straw which help slow water runoff and aid in infiltration so that the soil absorbs most of the water without eroding. Straw wattles are typically placed around perimeters and at the barriers of slopes, while jute netting can be applied directly to slopes.
Natural vegetation buffers can be made cheaply and easily using existing vegetation and stacking them around water sources, slopes, and other perimeter areas to prevent soil erosion and sediment runoff.
Ripraps consist of a large collection of stones around slopes and undisturbed soil to slow the flow of runoff and prevent soil erosion.
Pipe Down Drains
Pipe-down drains are a great temporary BMP to redirect concentrated water flows underneath slopes and avoid the soil altogether.
Common Sediment Control BMPs
To help strengthen your stormwater runoff protection, sediment barriers should be placed at select locations around area perimeters and discharge points to prevent sediment pollution.
Silt fences consist of a strong geotextile material that traps heavy particles and can be applied sporadically around worksites down slopes and other graded areas.
Rock Entrances and Dams
Rock entrances and dams similar to ripraps can be placed around construction entrances and exits, as well as dams and other structures to prevent toxic materials from being tracked outside of work sites.
Installing grade breaks on slopes helps slow the flow of stormwater runoff and can even be used to redirect it to safer locations.
Sediment basins are typically located at the bottom of large grades and allow stormwater to settle until sediment can be filtered out. While a more expensive option, sediment basins are effective at trapping sediment and ensuring their proper filtration.
Drain Inlet Protection
Finally, drain inlet protection using filter fabric or socks can be used to help trap sediment before it enters storm drains, allowing sites the chance to filter out sediment before it’s too late.
As previously noted, stabilizing disrupted soil is vital to leaving a work site in good condition after all construction activities have ceased. Hydroseeding and revegetation can help restore soil to its natural state and ensure that your worksite is not liable for any damage to the environment or any man-made structures.
Employing the right erosion control solutions ensures your construction zone remains legally compliant and environmentally safe. For any assistance related to SWPPP planning and erosion control, be sure to contact the experts at Valor Environmental.
We are environmental consultants specializing in construction zone safety and NPDES compliance. Call us at 888-328-2567 or fill out the form on our website to contact Valor directly.