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October 21, 2015
Tips and tricks for effective construction stormwater compliance
By Emily Remmel, JD, Legal Editor

Construction stormwater noncompliance issues often arise from miscommunications between contractor and developer, or even from simple errors that occur on the construction site. These issues have the potential not only to delay construction but also to be extremely costly if a regulator issues a fine.

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To combat these stormwater construction compliance issues, a few tips and tricks from a seasoned land development engineer could help your project site stay on the right side of regulations.

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1. Understanding the SWPPP

From project beginning to end, the stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) evolves. It is indeed a rare event that a SWPPP does not undergo some revisions throughout the life of a project. Therefore, it is crucial that all stakeholders read and understand the SWPPP. Tip: Post the current SWPPP version on-site and notify contractors that changes have been made.

2. Controlling erosion

One of the most common mistakes seen on a construction site is improper installation of silt fences. Silt fences are either on too steep of a grade or not positioned correctly to reduce stormwater flow. Also, heavy rain events can cause erosion control perimeter barriers to fail. Other erosion mistakes that occur on-site are incorrect excavator grading and inadequate construction phasing plans. Tip: Install silt fences properly (perpendicular to flow) and, if necessary, use secondary barriers to reduce flow velocity.

3. Proper site management

Plan ahead to stockpile dirt piles or logs in a designated area so that they do not concentrate in the middle of a project or active working area. Also, make sure silt fences surround these stockpile areas. Tip: Have a qualified design professional conduct weekly inspections to proactively catch noncompliance issues.

4. Preconstruction meeting

The contractor is often left to make compliance decisions because the developer is not readily available. A contractor may not always follow the design plan and can make compliance mistakes. Therefore, conducting a preconstruction meeting with the developer, site contractor, design professional, and an independent inspector can keep everyone on the same page. Tip: Require weekly inspection reports to keep the communication lines open.

5. Designate weekend responsibilities

When a rain event overwhelms your site’s control measures, you must make immediate repairs or replacements. Unfortunately, these immediate repairs are often required on weekends. Tip: Take proactive control measures when a rain event is forecast.

These 5 tips and tricks were part of Steve Trinkhaus’s presentation at the 88th annual Water Environmental Federation Trade Exhibition Conference (WEFTEC) in Chicago this September. Trinkhaus is a seasoned land developer and professional engineer who is nationally recognized in the field of low-impact development. WEFTEC draws water quality professionals from all over the world to learn about and network over the latest stormwater and wastewater issues.

Interested in more stormwater compliance tips? Sign up here for Steve Trinkaus’s Construction Stormwater Regulation Strategies: Best Practices to Assure NPDES Compliance webinar on November 12.

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