In Ohio, approximately 54% of the watersheds are impaired due to silt and sedimentation that comes from runoff. As concern for water quality and a need to comply with environmental requirements becomes more pressing, green infrastructure, such as pervious pavement and bioretention cells, is starting to take root.
To help local contractors adjust to this transition, the Old Woman Creek Reserve teamed up with the Erie Soil and Water Conservation District to create a new program for those involved in the oversight, construction, installation, and design of stormwater infrastructure to get more “clean and green” in their work. Today, the Erie County Clean Water Contractor Program is helping to expand contractor skill sets, boost their understanding of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, open lines of communication between them and regulatory agencies, and create a pipeline that allows them to access the latest science.
“Before this, many of our trainings focused on engineers and planners, rather than those performing the actual on-site construction,” observes Emily Kuzmick, the Coastal Training Coordinator at the Old Woman Creek Reserve. “Community support and positive responses from participants has encouraged us to plan more innovative outreach events, such as expos with vendors and social networking opportunities for contractors.”
Designed to support a contractor’s work process, the program covers topics including installation, on-site sediment and erosion control methods, and newer, “greener” stormwater control measures. It also hosts events including field site visits and installation demonstrations.
“The Clean Water Contractor events are always a great refresher; it’s always nice to see what’s new,” says Randy Hensinger, a local project foreman for Herbst Excavating, which installed one of the first stormwater bioretention systems in Erie County. “Things in this industry change on a weekly basis. It’s important to have ways to address issues and evaluate them, and it’s also been helpful to have opportunities to network with others in the field and learn from their experiences.”
Participants in the program are certified as “Clean Water Contractors” by pledging to participate in one approved training event each year, attending a sediment and erosion control event once every two years, and practicing “clean water” actions, ranging from sediment and erosion control measures at construction sites to implementation of stormwater control measures.
Alongside a high rate of participant satisfaction, the program’s success is reflected in the increasing number of green infrastructure projects implemented in Erie County in 2016. The Erie Conservation District also reported a change in behavior regarding erosion and sediment control implementation on active construction sites during their routine inspections.