Erosion Officials Face Angry Environmentalists, Possible Federal Charge
Angry environmentalists and federal inspectors today joined distraught Mill Creek area homeowners at a pubic hearing today to confront area erosion control officials who allegedly cut costs in their failed effort to stop runoff and silt from fouling the picturesque stream.Public records and personal notes revealed at the hearing that Smith’s Erosion Control, Inc., was awarded a contract six months ago to plant grass and control erosion on a mile-long (1.6 km), 3:1 slope embankment that runs into Mill Creek. Following what was described as “standard industry practices,” the company carefully followed the contract and took three days to prep the site and put down the specified seed/mulch combin-ation. They were paid in full within 30 days of billing.
Heat, Then Downpours
Weather records show that in the first few weeks that followed, the temperatures rose to nearly 100 and there was no rain. Later, light rains were followed by several severe downpours and then high temperatures returned. Photo-graphs showed that a month after installation vegetation was nearly a foot high and turning brown; however, coverage was not uniform. A thorough inspection of the site was not made despite residents’ calls that silt was washing into the creek and some dead fish had been noticed.
Efforts to mow the area were apparently abandoned for safety reasons because of rutting that got progressively worse further down the slope. Recently, a killing frost revealed not only how sparse the grass coverage actually was, compared to the more visible weeds, but also how severely eroded the embankment had become. From sheet erosion at the top, federal inspectors reported that the situation had deteriorated to severe gully erosion at the creek’s edge, clogging the creek with untold amounts of silt.
Camouflage, Not Control
Environmentalists claimed that erosion had not been controlled, it has simply been camouflaged. They were outspoken in their concern about the loss of wildlife habitat and endangerment to the many species of plants, animals and fish that were native to the area.Residents are demanding that the project be totally redone, including removal of silt and debris from the creek. Rather than re-seeding the area and facing a repeat of the same problem, they were encouraging the use of turfgrass sod, stating that it would result in immediate beautification of the area, and would provide known erosion control benefits.
Significant Fines Possible
Federal officials said they were gathering evidence to determine if there may have been violations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or Clean Water Act. Significant fines could result from such findings.
Environmentalists said losses were multiple: money spent on the project was virtually wasted; the creek and its wildlife inhabitants were seriously damaged; and, down-stream pollution and siltation were severe. They maintain that efforts to correct the resultant problems and actually control the embankment’s future erosion will be much more expensive than had other methods been originally used.
The public hearing is scheduled to continue tomorrow and may be extended for several days.
Issues to Address With All Potential Erosion Control Contractors
1. How will the effectiveness of the erosion control project be determined or measured?
A. Percent of ground cover to be achieved?
B. Sediment losses to be no greater than?
2. Who will be responsible for monitoring and measuring the control achieved?
3. When can erosion control efforts be initiated at the site?
4. How long after initiating work at the site will the erosion control objectives defined in question one be achieved?
5. For how long after the initial site work is completed will this firm assume responsibility for site conditions and grow-in?
6. What maintenance steps must be taken to ensure continued and consistent erosion control?
7. For those areas accessible to the public, how long after project initiation will there be use restrictions? What level of use restrictions will be necessary?
-Turf Resource Center Trade Info