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August 29, 2013
Successful environmental monitoring at project sites
By Amanda Czepiel, JD, Senior Managing Editor

At this year’s StormCon conference in Myrtle Beach, SC, Susie Ridenour, Ben Morrow, and Dave Griffin of McCormick Taylor discussed their experiences with developing and implementing successful environmental monitoring programs for oversight of erosion and sediment controls and stormwater management at project sites in this constantly changing regulatory environment. 

The speakers explained that they have seen a rise in the popularity of environmental monitoring programs. This increase is a result of both regulatory and business drivers. From a regulatory standpoint, there have been numerous erosion and sediment control rule changes on the federal, state, and local levels and a sharp rise in state enforcement for noncompliance. Business drivers for environmental monitoring programs include:

  • Increased capital construction,
  • Accelerated project schedules, and
  • An increased awareness of environmental stewardship.

What’s the cornerstone to a successful monitoring program? The answer is twofold:

  1. Well-educated environmental monitors with the communication skills and background to understand the design and purpose of specific projects, and
  2. A solid integration of the program from the very beginning of project development.

Environmental Monitors

When hiring an environmental monitor for a project, the McCormick Taylor engineers and planners look for candidates with:

  • Natural resource field education and experience,
  • Good communication skills,
  • The ability to conduct a plan review and read construction specifications,
  • An understanding of the regulations and roles of agencies, and
  • Knowledge of ecological principles.

A monitor’s skills and background should be selected for each specific project; for instance, if a project involves wildlife, a monitor with a biology background is best suited.
On the job, the environmental monitor should be completing environmental reviews, making proactive recommendations, documenting extensively, communicating frequently with planners and contractors, coordinating with the project team, and managing the compliance program by looking at all aspects of the program. What an environmental monitor should not be asked to do is make or approve design changes, inspect or approve work such as concrete testing and structures, direct contractors, or approve contractor materials or quantities of materials.

Project Implementation

When implementing an environmental monitoring program, the McCormick Taylor presenters suggest the following steps:

  • Integrate construction representatives and environmental monitors into the design phase.
  • Create a paradigm shift aligning contractor expectations and activities with environmental compliance expectations.
  • Conduct contractor awareness training.
  • Be consistent with best management practices.

Benefits

The benefits of establishing an environmental monitoring program at a project site are numerous, according to the StormCon presenters. Such programs help to establish trusting relationships between regulatory agencies and the developer, which reduces risk of noncompliance, delays, and costly fines. When a well-organized environmental compliance program is instituted, it keeps the focus on the permits and permit conditions and defines roles and responsibilities. With a project’s environmental concerns shifting to the environmental monitor, contractors and others on-site can complete a project efficiently and in compliance.

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