Control of runoff to add to builders’ workload |

Control of runoff to add to builders’ workload

John Seelmeyer

As northern Nevada’s record snowfall melts, its runoff is regulated by state and federal agencies and that means contractors will need to monitor it carefully.

If they don’t control runoff from construction sites of an acre or more, contractors face potentially stiff financial penalties $27,500 a day for each spot where runoff isn’t controlled as well as the possibility that their job could be shut down.

This isn’t news to most contractors.

Cliff Lawson, an engineer with the state’s water pollution control division, said last week the state has put substantial energy into educating contractors about their responsibilities to control runoff from building sites.

Adds Terri Svetich, stormwater coordinator with the city of Reno: “Contractors in our community are getting quite used to these requirements.

They have come a long way in the past couple of years.” But the scope of this winter’s storms the amount of snow that fell as well as the fact that it’s lingered for an eternity puts pressure on contractors to make sure their erosion- control measures are in place so they can get back to work, says Lori Carpenter, a hydrologist who owns Huffman & Carpenter Inc.

in Reno.

That work needs to begin with a careful assessment, says Debra Lemke, an environmental scientist with the firm, which specializes in runoff control and wetlands protection.

“You need to park your truck and get out of it,” Lemke says.”You need to make sure that everything still is in place.

There’s going to be a lot of mud coming down.”

Some contractors, she says,will need to repair erosion-control systems before they can get back to work.

Others will need to clear out systems such as silt fences that already are filled.

A big issue at many job sites will be mud that might be tracked by trucks and equipment onto nearby streets.

Some contractors will spend money to buy or rent wheel-washing systems, says Patrick Ty Whitaker, an environmental technician with Huffman & Carpenter, while others will face the costs and hassle of keeping fresh gravel and cobblestones to catch mud at job-site entrances.

In some instances, Lemke says, contractors may turn to chemical soil stabilizing agents glue, in essence to keep mud in place.

And almost every contractor will be turning to traditional runoff controls straw bales, grass coils and the like to keep silt in place.

But some unusual challenges have arisen like the dirt and other material that are now contained in those large snow piles around construction sites.

Svetich says city engineering staff members just began thinking about the problems of snow piles last week and will be working with contractors to find ways to control that source of runoff.

Carpenter says regulators aren’t likely to accept excuses after the time they’ve put into education of the construction industry.

“We’re in a new age,” she says.”You can’t ask forgiveness instead of permission any more.”

(Details of regulations and links to regulatory agencies are found at http://www. bmp/construction.Huffman & Carpenter has prepared a list of vendors and other resources at