Construction Site Spring Clean-up

Ordinarily around this time of year a member of the stormwater staff would write a blog post discussing the need to do a spring clean-up on constructions sites. Even though Northeast Ohio has had a relatively mild winter, many of the temporary erosion and sediment controls that keep sediment out of our waterways are in poor condition and need attention prior to the onset of spring’s wet weather. Following Cuyahoga SWCD’s standard operating procedures, our stormwater inspectors would schedule site visits with project managers of all active construction sites, discuss the individual site deficiencies, and help create a schedule to get items back into compliance.

However, the world is currently living under the global COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has affected the day-to-day lives of people in numerous ways. While many folks were aware of the threat overseas for months it really started to creep into our conscience in the early part of March. By March 11th Cuyahoga SWCD developed initial plans to ensure continued operations during what has shaped up to be a long-term disruption.

Beginning on March 16, 2020 Cuyahoga SWCD's stormwater inspectors began a staggered working schedule in order to limit contact with each other at work. A one person per vehicle policy was implemented, equipment sharing was ceased, and in-person interaction with project staff ceased. Over the past week this has evolved into performing brief compliance inspections; all report writing and follow-up with project staff is being conducted from home. After working under this concept for about a week and a half, it appears to be functioning well.

The Director of the Ohio Department of Health issued a Stay at Home Order that went into effect at 11:59pm on March 23, 2020. Paragraphs 9 & 10 detail exemptions for Essential Infrastructure (active construction) and Essential Government Functions. In light of this order and other available information on the Ohio EPA website Cuyahoga SWCD is continuing to perform compliance inspections and report on active construction sites. All stormwater inspectors are following physical distancing, hygiene, cleaning best practices, and daily self-evaluations of personal health (i.e. temperature & well-being). Unless notified otherwise Cuyahoga SWCD is committed to keeping our staff healthy while continuing to assist our Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) partners in compliance with their permit obligations.

So, onto the blog post at hand...Construction Site Spring Clean-up

During the transition from winter weather to the wet weather of spring construction site operators should evaluate the jobsite and correct any erosion and sediment control compliance issues they may discover. Below is a list of some common items that should be inspected for proper function.

Silt Fence / Compost Filter Sock

Silt fence may have been damaged due to plow activity, pressure from snow drifts, sediment accumulation from freeze thaw cycles, or other issues. Wooden stakes should be straightened and hammered in the ground, loose silt fence should be stapled to the stakes, and excess sediment removed. Compost filter socks may have been displaced from plow activity, snagged by equipment, or crushed from activity on the site. An additional layer (row) should be added to the perimeter.

De-watering Skimmer Device

Frozen ponds often cause the connector pipe to become dislodge from the outlet control structure. Contractors should check the connection and ensure a watertight seal. The skimmer head should be inspected for leaf litter which may clogging.

Stabilized Construction Entrances

Freeze and thaw cycles often create a muddy mess on the site. this mud is tracked onto the stone entrance which become embedded with sediment and are rendered ineffective. Depending on the severity of the accumulated sediment there are a couple remedies. If the sediment accumulation is light the stone entrance can be "fluffed" with a skid steer to restore proper funstion. Moderate sediment accumulation can be remedied through the addition of ODOT #1 & #2 aggregate. Severe sediment accumulation will require the complete rebuilding of the entrance.

Storm Drain Inlet Protection

Storm drain inlet protection is an item that is easily damaged by construction traffic. The way inlet protection works is to pond water and allow sediment to settle. During winter conditions ponded water freezes and becomes a construction site hazard. Project superintendents will poke holes in the inlet protection to allow that water to drain and prevent freezing. Inlet protection should be inspected to ensure it is viable and effective.

Temporary Stabilization

Areas that have been grade during the winter may have had straw mulch and seed applied to minimize erosion. In the spring those areas can be evaluation for vegetative establishment. Additional straw mulch and seed can be re-applied as necessary.

Even though normal activity has been disrupted by COVID-19, construction site operators need to maintain the stormwater best management practices installed at the jobsite. Inspectors and construction workers should remain vigilant with their personal hygiene and physical distancing measures to limit the spread of this infection.

Blog Author: Brent Eysenbach, Senior Program Manager

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