Improving Erosion and Sediment Control Success on Construction Sites

Improving Erosion and Sediment Control Success on Construction Sites

In the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (Vancouver and its surrounding municipalities), the practice and enforcement of erosion and sediment control (ESC) on construction sites is in its infancy, and has yet to be properly managed and enforced.

30 years ago, civil engineers used dated methodology in dealing with the generation of sediment on construction sites, and then poor methodology in dealing with sediment control (usually an inefficient sediment pond). The sad truth is that this practice continues today on almost all construction sites.

Most of the municipalities in the Lower Mainland that have an ESC bylaw continue to rely on civil engineers to design erosion and sediment control plans for construction sites. Many of the civil engineers designing these plans have no background in ESC and therefore provide inadequate designs when dealing with the site in question. It is often the ESC monitor that visits the site on a weekly basis that is accused of not properly managing the site when the discharge water has a high turbidity reading, or streets are muddy from tracking coming from truck tires.

By the time these types of ESC problems arise on site, the monitor has little chance of rectifying the problem without recommending expensive alternatives, and having to spend a lot of additonal money. The problem begins with the ESC designer. If we are to achieve better results on site, then the municipalities must enforce who is allowed to design ESC plans.

ESC plans need to be designed by professionals that have experience in dealing with exactly that. By professionals, I mean civil engineers with a proven background in erosion and sediment control, CPESC, or any other designation that certifies someone of having taken the time to become versed in the practice of ESC.

By having a professional design the ESC site plan, care will be taken to make sure that the ESC methodologies will be thought out and have a better chance of success, while at the same time likely saving the client significant costs in time and materials.

Unlike in the U.S.A. where when things go south, people fix the problem or get sued (or both); here in Canada, the ESC designer is rarely - if ever - held accountable for poor ESC designs. Until the designer is held accountable for their designs, the motive to improve ESC plans will remain nil. If poor designs continue, and no visual progress can be seen by the developers or construction staff, then everyone will continue to believe that the practice of ESC on construction sites is a waste of money, and will continue to despise the fact that it is mandatory. Success starts with a well-though-out ESC design for site - otherwise it will fail.

ESC designers must be held accountable by the municipalities and/or the developers for the plans they produce, otherwise, high water turbidity, dirty roads, wasted money, time, and ESC materials will continue, and the entire ESC practice in the Lower Mainland will fail.