Collaborative Approach Leads to Success
By Dylan Drudul, CPESC
Keeping a project on schedule, under budget and safe are some of the most important goals a contractor or site superintendent should achieve every day. Staying compliant with local, state or federal erosion and sediment control (ESC) regulations can sometimes feel like a daunting task. However, there are a few things that can be done to keep your project, company and stakeholders in compliance and ultimately to ensure the goals just mentioned are met as well.
(1) Communicate clearly and often
The number one problem that I have encountered on projects is lack of communication between the contractor and regulator. From day one of the project, I offer every avenue of communication to the contractor to allow them to choose what works best for them—phone, video call, text or email. Many problems can be avoided if the contractor simply communicates their plan or approach to their inspector. Minor approvable field changes, such as modifying silt fence location, when done without inspectors’ knowledge can become a larger compliance issue if the contractor fails to communicate this field change to the inspector. Always keep your inspector up to date on changing site conditions, requested field modifications and any requested/approved sequence changes from the proper authorities.
(2) Be proactive
Take the time every day to walk your project and check that onsite sediment control devices are functional, installed per plan and undamaged. Many permitted projects are required to perform self-inspections and log them onsite for inspectors to review upon request. This is a great tool to have accountability on projects for the upkeep of the sediment control devices as well as ensuring they are routinely inspected.
Do not wait for the inspector to arrive onsite and discover compliance issues as this will only lead to a poor relationship with your regulator. A common issue I hear about is ESC devices damaged onsite by a subcontractor, and the subcontractor is often not held accountable. One approach that I have found works well is back-charging the subcontractor’s company for repairs and replacement of these devices that they damaged. This should be conveyed to all subcontractors and their agents prior to beginning the project and possibly even included in the contract agreements. The damage usually seems to be curbed by this approach rather swiftly.
(3) Install properly
This seems like a no brainer but all too often erosion control best management practices are incorrectly installed. Silt fence installed opposite the direction of flow, not trenched into the ground, incorrect post size or geotextile, inlet protection devices not being installed per specification or not spanning an entire inlet are just a few of the ways devices are improperly installed. Often, all ESC devices that are due to be installed have a specification and detail included in the approved plan. Follow the specification for guidance on proper installation and maintenance. Your inspector will be using the same plan during your inspections so if everything reflects the plan, there should be no compliance issues.
(4) Bid the project appropriately
Most project bids include initial ESC installation; however, more often than not, there are no line items for maintenance and even overall replacement on longer duration projects. Make sure to include these costs in the initial bid. When it comes time for maintenance and replacement the money is there and there is no reason for delays or noncompliance as a result. Not allocating for inevitable maintenance is setting yourself up for failure so make sure to include it to save you a headache further into the project.
(5) Collaborate with your inspector
Whether you are the contractor or the inspector, one common goal is substantial completion of the project while complying with regulations and keeping sediment onsite. Make your inspector part of the project, the process, and the goals you want to achieve from day one of project kickoff. Even during the design phase request that the engineers reach out for comments on the plan to ensure that common field issues are identified and addressed. Collaborate with your inspector to see what they suggest to reach project deadlines while remaining in compliance.
The inspector often wants to be involved and offer advice and guidance. Leverage your inspector’s knowledge and guidance to help you meet your project’s goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your inspector. It’s better to ask for permission than beg for forgiveness when it comes to regulatory agencies. At the end of the day everyone has the same goal of getting the job done and done right.
(6) Be involved during the design phase
If inspectors, contractors and engineers all work together during the plan design/review stage of the project then many common issues can be mitigated early, even before the project breaks ground. Engineers are often office bound and do not have the time or ability to assess real field conditions in person to develop a plan that will work for the contractor. Having contractors and inspectors involved early adds a fresh perspective on the constructability of the project and alleviates issues before the project is constructed in the field. Plans often look good on paper but once reviewed in the field have some fatal issues that need to be addressed. Make all stakeholders part of the plan design now to save time and headaches later.
About the Expert
Dylan Drudul, CPESC, is the senior sediment and erosion control inspector for the City of Rockville, Maryland. He currently works in the Environmental Management Division of the Public Works Department. Concurrently he sits on the IECA Board of Directors as the membership vice president for the association as well as the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of IECA’s first vice president.