Emerald Site Services

  • Blog: From the Dirt Pile

    We are developing our Blog section to better connect with you! Each month we will publish a new blog on an issue of interest to those of us involved in development and community environmental management. Shortly after the start of the new year, we will launch both our survey section on the home page and discussion threads within our Blog section to allow you to sound off on issues and concerns. in the meantime, send comments to:

Half empty or half full?

     We're all familiar with the old adage about the glass being seen as either half empty or half full as a metaphor for how various issues and/or problems can be seen either positively or negatively.  As my grandmother used to say it's all in how you make lemonade out of lemons.  For developers and communities trying to cope with NPDES regulations there has too often been confusion and uncertainty about meeting erosion and sedimentation standards. 

     In a number of east coast States the measurement of suspended "colloidal clay" sediments or turbidity (visual clarity measured in nephelometric turbidity units or NTUs) of stormwater leaving a site, has become the standard that determines whether erosion and sedimentation control practices are effectively meeting NPDES standards keeping sediments from entering public watersheds.  Using an NTU standard is now under consideration for Illinois as well as on a Federal level. 

    Looking at this as the glass being half empty, a new turbidity standard would seem to be another regulation costing communities and developers more time and money, particularly in what is one of the most daunting economies since the Great Depression.  Looked at as half full, though, and what you may find is that there is more certainty and an opportunity to manage erosion and sedimentation controls to a definitive standard eliminating a lot of opinion and current ambiguity. By managing to a quantifiable standard and employing different practices to achieve a very real and specific number, allows practicality to be brought into stormwater management.

    The single most important step in meeting future NPDES regulations is changing our basic approach.  Like any ecosystem, stormwater management needs to be unified system not a series of piecemeal actions cobbled together to pass an inspection.  A systems approach is significantly more effective, but not when it is seen simply as an expense to be controlled rather than a cost issue requiring strategic management and not simply responding retroactively to regulatory pressures.

John Donahue

John Donahue is the President of Emerald Site Services.

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