Erosion Control – A Guide to SWPPPs, Silt Fence, Blanket and More

What Is Erosion Control in Construction?

For the purpose of this guide, erosion control is a set of controls designed to minimize negative environmental impacts of construction. According to the EPA, erosion from construction sites results in sediment discharges up to 500 tons per year. That’s a lot of dirt!

Erosion is a naturally occurring process that’s greatly accelerated by earth-disturbing projects, like construction. Excess runoff of sediments from erosion can cause damage to the environment, increase water maintenance costs, damage infrastructure, and result in huge fines for construction projects. That’s why the prevention of soil erosion is important.

In 1933, the Soil Erosion Service was created by the U.S. Government to combat the effects of erosion. Over the years, the department in charge of handling erosion control changed hands numerous times, now it’s handled by the EPA. Furthermore, every state has their own set of rules and guidelines for setting up pollution plans.

Follow this link to check out our complete guide on “What is erosion?“.

 

Why is Erosion Control Important?

Erosion control is needed to satisfy State, Federal, and Local laws. It’s important to keep excess dirt, chemicals, materials, and other pollutants on the job site. Failure to do so can result in fines, environmental harm, or damage the construction site. Additionally, erosion creates a mess and anger your construction neighbors, resulting in more problems than you already have.

On-site loss of soil reduces the soils natural ability to provide nutrients, regulate water flow, and protect the environment. Lost soil also increases the density of the remaining soil, reducing its ability to hold water and naturally grow vegetation. Additionally, if organic matter is lost due to erosion, it can reduce the soil’s natural ability to fight off pests.

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Best Erosion Control Products

If you’re wondering what can be used to control erosion, effective controls accomplish the following:

  • Reduce erosive forces and increase the ground’s ability to withstand erosion.
  • Control erosion with products like silt fence, curlex, blanket, rock berms, and many other options.
  • Limit soil exposure.
  • Modify the slope or topography of the disturbed area.
  • Reduce the velocity of runoff,

The following products are most effective products used in erosion control:

Silt Fence

Silt fence is a temporary erosion control product that acts as a barrier to prevent sediment runoff. It’s a popular product due to its affordable price, quick installation, and easy installation. Typical silt fence installation consists of a synthetic fabric stretched between either metal or wooden posts. The fence barrier is installed on the down slope and allows water to pass through, but blocks sediment.

Matting, Curlex, and Blankets (ECBs)

erosion control blanket
Matting, curlex, and blankets are natural and synthetic mats used to stabilize slopes or other areas where loose dirt might persist. They protect seed on the ground from being blown or washed away while new vegetation grows. Additionally, they are biodegradable and do not need to be removed when the project is complete. ECBs are popular due to their easy installation compared to hydromulch.
 

Wattles, Logs, and Silt Socks

wattle erosion control

Wattles are man-made straw logs installed on slopes, along barriers, or around barriers. Erosion control logs can be used in replacement of silt fence. Wattles assist in stabilizing construction disturbances by reducing the slope lengths, lessening water flow velocities and trapping sediment on site. Effective installation of wattles can minimize sheet and rill erosion resulting in improved water quality, downstream, enhanced vegetation growth
 

Seeding

seeding erosioin control

Grass acts as a natural barrier to erosion, so many states require any disturbed to have grass returned before the project is complete. Typically, the cheapest way to do this is by planting grass seed. Effective seeding typically scrapes the ground first, to ensure the seeds don’t just rest on top of the soil. Additionally, you can apply erosion control blankets on top of seed to keep it in place while the grass grows.
 
 

 Hydromulch

hydromulch
 

Hydromulch is a combination of seed and mulch used to quickly grow grass and stabilize slopes. It’s far cheaper than planting sod and much more effective than traditionally seeding. The cost is nearly a quarter the price of traditional sod and results can show up in as little as a week. While the grass is growing, the mulch sticks to the ground, preventing dirt and sediment from running off.  Hydromulch is sprayed out using a specialized machine, so typically needs to be done by professionals. For more information, check out this guide on what is hydromulch.

What is a SWPPP?

If you’ve read this far on an article about erosion control in construction, chances are you’ve heard of a SWPPP. A SWPPP is an abbreviation for storm water pollution plan. It documents actions that could cause water pollution, then details steps the company will take prevent pollution. It’s a necessary step in erosion control on a construction site.

The main purpose of a SWPPP is to outline the procedures the operator will take in order to comply with the construction general permit. It includes descriptions of the site and each major phase of the planned activity, the roles and responsibilities of contractors and subcontractors, and the inspection schedule logs. Additionally, it’s a place to document changes and modifications to the construction plans and associated stormwater pollution prevention activities (source).

SWPPPs also go but the following names:

  • SWP3
  • Erosion Control Plan
  • ¬†Stormwater Pollution Control Plan
  • Prevention Plan
  • SWPPP Inspection
  • EPA Inspection Plan

Who Needs a SWPPP?

What are SWPPP Requirments?

What are SWPPP BMPs?