Bowling Green, Kentucky's EPSC contractor certification program allows the MS4 to form professional relationships with a strong foundation
The city of Bowling Green, Kentucky, is situated about an hour north of Nashville with an area of 39.7 square miles. The third largest city in the state of Kentucky, it has a population of approximately 70,000. This small MS4 program began requiring an Erosion Prevention & Sediment Control (EPSC) Certified Contractor for all land disturbances greater than 750 square feet as of April 1, 2006.
In the last 15 years, the city’s EPSC contractor certification program has provided 1,000 project managers, builders, engineers and developers with the knowledge and skills needed to comply with local, state, and federal regulations regarding erosion and sediment management practices. There are 356 actively certified contractors, 75 of which were named on 442 permits in 2020. Oftentimes, the MS4’s storm water code enforcement official is inspecting multiple sites for the same EPSC designee.
This concentrated pool of certified men and women presents opportunities for the MS4 to cultivate good professional relationships with a foundation built on communication and education.
The initial certification content includes introduction of the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Phase II Storm Water ordinance, the responsibilities of a certified EPSC contractor, the city’s permitting processes and an overview of the city’s Storm Water Manual. Contractors leave the class understanding causes of erosion, how to reduce sedimentation, why it is necessary to control sediment and the impact sediment has on our environment and infrastructure, and the bottom line if it is allowed to leave the site.
During the class, the Environmental Compliance Division manager and inspectors stress the importance of communication and welcome contractor invitations to meet on-site. Contact information is exchanged, and with the permission of the newly certified contractors, text messages will be the first line of enforcement for minor infractions. Text messages have a much higher read rate than email, are received instantaneously and can be addressed at the contractor’s convenience. Optionally, photos of specific deficiencies can be included, as well as links to the city’s storm water BMP manual and code of ordinances.
In turn, the contractor can reply with post-remediation photos, and the inspector can verify them in the field the next time they are in the area. To counterbalance the texts involving non-compliance, inspectors will also send messages praising a job well done when a site has implemented BMPs that are exemplary. Encouragement and kudos are just as important as letters of enforcement.
If the contractor does not voluntarily comply, a Notice of Violation (NOV) will be issued. The inspector will attempt to reach the contractor by phone to discuss on-site concerns and let them know to expect the NOV and a follow-up deadline. Consistent failure to achieve compliance with city storm water ordinances may result in conditionally approved permits, site meetings, revocation of EPSC certifications and citations. However, it is not the inspector’s objective to progress past the NOV. The objective is always regulatory compliance.
Experiencing Educational Events
Requiring attendance to an event once every three years is a way the MS4 can maintain a professional connection with their EPSC-certified contractors and interact with them outside of an enforcement situation. The city of Bowling Green presents a recertification event or field day, annually. The MS4 budget includes event expenditures and charges registrants a nominal fee to attend. Invitations are sent via email and USPS to all actively certified professionals. Contractors that will have a lapse in certification are invited by phone if they are not registered after the digital and physical invitations are delivered.
The daylong seminar-type events are held at a convention center. The agenda includes a mix of professionals speaking on topics from biological stream indicators and soil microbiomes to storm water consultants, BMP inspectors and installation companies, manufacturers, as well as presentations by other MS4 and governmental agencies. City staff open the event reviewing the purpose of the MS4 certification program, compliance and expectations. Attendees are provided meals and refreshments, networking opportunities, knowledge and continuing education credits. Though they are not required to, many attend every year, drawn by the CE credits and networking opportunities.
Field day recertification events include demonstrations of proper BMP installations as well as proprietary products showcased by vendors. In 2019, with guidance from the International Erosion Control Association, the city and county MS4s coordinated a “Kentucky Muddy Water Blues” hybrid of the seminar and field day events. This event was so well received; it will likely be the future of Bowling Green’s annual EPSC recertification events.
In the Field
In 2020, a full time Environmental Compliance Inspector position was created. The MS4 now has an inspector regularly circulating; with a more frequent presence in city developments. The city-issued vehicle assigned to the inspector is a large utility van with the doors tagged “Public Works” beneath the city seal. Aligning with the MS4’s Minimum Control Measure 1: Public Information and Outreach, the van will be branded with the “Keep it Clean Bowling Green” logo and a program mission statement. Not only will this van wrap speak to the citizens of Bowling Green, but everyone on the jobsite will quickly recognize the storm water billboard as it rolls into developments.
Even without the wrap, time and again, the environmental compliance employee dedicated to EPSC inspections has been flagged down by residential contractors. Contractors will stop the inspector to deliver updates on remedial measures, to consult the inspector on proper application of sediment management, as well as to confirm their site is in compliance. This face-to-face on-site interaction leaves the contractor with a better understanding of what the inspector expects so they know when they are achieving minimum compliance without wasting resources on improper installations or poor placement of BMPs.
The city of Bowling Green has observed that the net effect of approachable, present compliance officers has aided in providing an atmosphere of partnership with the development community. The inspectors are a face for the program, and they have occasions to work with contractors on innovative and novel solutions to construction site runoff challenges. Inspector and contractor interactions are not solely during regulatory situations which allows the contractor to view the inspector, not as a hindrance, but as an available tool in the contractor’s compliance kit.