Adapting to different industry practices
When moving to the Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, area for a new storm water manager position, my thoughts never would have turned to the philosophical debate between erosion and sediment controls. Any storm water professional can explain the difference between the two, but what happens when it is standard practice in the area to use erosion controls in place of sediment controls?
In this area, our methods go against everything a storm water professional typically would do. Erosion control blankets—namely one type—are used on the curbs of new residential lots in a 4-ft lay instead of using a silt fence sediment barrier. However, I will note that Texas storm water professionals do utilize silt fences and fiber rolls in swales and other areas.
When I became aware of this, I decided to try and remedy this situation. However, it was finally clear that this method actually works with some research and understanding of the soils and climate.
We found that, through working with the manufacturer and one of the MS4s in the metroplex, there actually were sediment-efficiency calculations for the erosion control blankets that showed efficiency for sediment control, as well as erosion control. With that said, there still are doubts in cases of a more than 10-year storm, not only for the erosion control blanket, but also for silt fence.
There are different considerations when it comes to residential homes; for example, there rarely are slopes of consequence. When there are, retaining walls are built or, in the case of swales, sediment barriers are used. These factors allow for the use of an erosion control product, namely an erosion control blanket, to be used for sediment control. While this is a new trend, curiosity leads me to believe that this is happening in other places.
Saving Time & Resources
In the home building business, things happen so quickly that houses can be built in 100 days or less in some cases. This leaves the storm water professional lost as to how to stay in compliance. While we all know we cannot be in compliance 100% of the time, we can do things to help. One way to help is training.
Train down to every level of workers doing the various jobs it takes to build a house, including sheetrock workers, brick layer, plumbers, electricians and others. If we concentrate on these employees and explain the cost of replacement after damage, we could save businesses capital, time and frustration.
Keeping an Open Mind
If you are a storm water professional, you will understand these frustrations at first, but hopefully this column will encourage you to look at all the possible solutions to your issues. I explained an issue with inlet protections, so this is the focus, not that we are using an erosion control method in place of a sediment control or barrier.
When we keep an open mind, we can find solutions that were not previously considered. Sometimes older technology works in new places and instances. Keep in mind that the industry is still new and we need to influence others to understand why we need to be compliant from an environmental standpoint, not a legal standpoint.