Construction runoff a serious water quality concern
SUMMIT COUNTY – As the summer construction season winds up, local water quality officials are once again eyeing potential impacts to streams from sediment-laden runoff.”You look at one site, and it’s no big deal. But from many sites, over time, it adds up, said Doug Trieste, the county’s erosion and runoff control specialist.Trieste will be one of the speakers this evening at the Blue River Watershed Group’s regular speaker series on water issues. While runoff from building sites is a serious problem, Trieste said the potential impacts could be minimized with education and pro-active stewardship by builders.Best management practices need to be followed strictly at all building sites, and local govermments need to stay on top of the situation by monitoring sites and ensuring continued compliance with local, state and federal building and runoff regs, Trieste said.”It’s a huge issue that easily addressed,” said Blue River Watershed Group board member Troy Wineland, who also works for the U.S. Forest Service as a hydrologist.Much of the illegal sediment discharge from construction sites ends up in small headwaters streams, where it doesn’t take much to tip the ecological balance. “The small streams are in equilibrium from the way they formed, but it doesn’t take much to get them out of equilibrium,” Trieste said, explaining that the unauthorized runoff can threaten sensitive wetlands and riparian habitat.One area singled out last year by Trieste, and again this spring by Wineland, is the Whispering Pines area, adjacent to Summit Cove, where a number of construction sites may not be in compliance with local codes, and where runoff could result in violation of state water qualiity regulations, dumping silt into Soda Creek.”A lot of people and companies are really good and they try really hard and mean well, but there are others who just blatantly don’t care. And there’s nobody getting on them,” Trieste said.The biggest problem is a lack of any meaningful enforcement, and not having enough staff to educate builders on site. Although the various jurisdictions do try to visit the most egregious violators, the reality is, resources are just stretched too thin.The biggest problems are with the many scattered single-family home developments around the towns and county, Trieste said, explaining that the bigger projects are often well-managed. Wineland wants to try and use the talk Thursday evening to create community watchdogs, citizens who know enough about the issue to spot potential violations and report them to authorities.”We want people to know what to look for and who to contact if they see something blatantly wrong,” Wineland said.Some signs of poorly managed building areas are mud tracks coming off the site and improperly installed sediment fences.There are those (builders) who are good, but the vast majority just don’t care, and that’s too bad, because it’s one of the most easily addresssed water quality impacts,” he concluded.Thursday’s talk will be followed by a day-long training session on Friday geared toward Colorado Department of Transportation runoff control certification. For more information call Wineland at (970) 485-2961. Questions about construction sites or reports of possible violations should be directed to Doug Trieste at (970) 547-3823.More info available on the web at http://www.epa.gov/nps/ordinance/erosion.htm and http://www.epa.gov/nps/MMGI/Chapter4/ch4-3a.html.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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