As a storm water professional that works with a variety of people in this field; from homeowner and career contractors to engineers, and more; it has become clear that there is a gap between the knowledge we know is out there and the practical application of that knowledge. It is a waste of time and money, not to mention frustrating, when mistakes are identified and corrected but continue to persist in subsequent projects.
For a while now, I have noticed that many things related to storm water pollution prevention are carelessly overlooked, ignored, and sometimes blatantly disregarded. This leads me to think that we can all do a better job at taking the time and effort required to ensure that storm water pollution prevention is given its proper due. By spending a little extra time to ensure that pollution prevention practices are properly planned and implemented we can strive to make an even larger impact on all the gains in water quality that have been made to date.
Below I will demonstrate examples of the knowledge-implementation gap that I mentioned above and provide some thoughts on how these persistent problems can be remedied. In doing so, more time and energy can be focused on making substantive changes that will benefit water quality and the profession.
Focus Item #1
Dumping waste down storm drains. This includes chemicals, concrete, motor oil, yard clippings, paint washout, and anything but rain and storm water. One drop of used motor oil can contaminate 75,000 gallons of water. After 40 plus years of education on clean water topics this sort of practice is still going on. There should be nothing but rain down the drain. Used oil can be taken to many auto repair businesses for recycling. It's time to focus on disposing of this material properly.
Focus Item #2
Dumping waste in unapproved areas. Concrete trucks need to rinse out the drum and chute after delivering a load. This waste material has an extremely high pH as well as other chemicals and particulates that are harmful to the environment. Current regulations, which have been in place for 10+ years, state that this waste material is to be collected and hauled away for disposal or recycling. It's time to focus on disposing of waste concrete wash water in an approved facility.
Focus Item #3
Persistent copy and paste errors in construction plans. Copy and paste errors must be corrected prior to the plans being approved. After a change in industry-wide practices it is understandable that errors like this would be made for a period of time, but two years after the change small errors like this become a waste of time and money. This issue could be remedied if the design engineer did a “Find and Replace” on their standard sheets. It's time to focus on proof-reading and taking the design of pollution prevention plans seriously; not just checking the box.
Focus Item #4
Quality assurance checks of construction practices is a must to ensure that planned facilities are properly installed. Facilities that are hastily installed or not given a final check before the project closes out can cause premature failure and possibly unsafe conditions. In some cases where construction activities have ceased there is a cost to the homeowners association to have this issue fixed when it should have been done during construction. It's time to focus on taking the time to do a quality control check prior to leaving the site in order to ensure that facilities are properly installed.