7 Common Mistakes Stormwater Inspections Will Find

NREPSM offers nearly 20 different certifications ranging in focus from air quality to logistics, mold to property assessment, laboratory work to natural resources. Part of the reason why we offer so many different fields of specialization is that the field of environmental care is incredibly multifaceted — and one of the most important areas is that of water. Our Certified Environmental Storm Water Compliance Professional (CESCP) certification helps organizations comply with regulatory requirements and avoid environmental damage.  

In this article, we will describe seven typical problems storm water inspections can uncover and issues they help prevent. 

Laying for sewerage wells on new road of underground storm sewer

Insufficient grading or lack of temporary or permanent cover

Grading is the art and science of shaping the surrounding area to take on a particular form. By digging and smoothing particular places, contractors, landscape architects, and other professionals can create a particular aesthetic impression. It’s also an important tool in controlling storm water runoff and related pollutants.  

Part of any stormwater inspection checklist should include checking to see if a site has adequate grading. Ideal grading should minimize steep areas and flat areas. Too much of the former can lead to erosion, and too much of the latter can lead to pooling water. Common signs of improper grading include pooling water, exposed roots around plants, and unwanted insects (e.g., mosquitoes, cockroaches). Construction contexts sometimes require that turned up areas lie exposed while work proceeds elsewhere. In these instances, environmental professionals need to inform contractors that they ought to cover these areas to prevent erosion. 

No sediment controls on-site

Different sites will employ different kinds of sediment controls to prevent erosion. Fully developed sites will use landscaping and plants as part of their control strategy, while areas under construction will employ more artificial methods (e.g., silt fences, sediment basins). Failure to employ proper sediment controls not only causes erosion issues, but it may also lead to algae blooms and flooding. 

During stormwater facility inspections, it’s easy to tell if a site lacks sediment controls by their absence. However, other metrics will also let you know if existing controls aren’t functioning property. One of the ways in which those with storm water inspector jobs can tell that a site has inadequate sediment controls is through collected water samples. If said samples contain suspended sediment or sediment that quickly settles to the bottom of the container, the site very well may need to implement new controls. Others involve determining whether or not sediment has overfilled detention and retention basins and assessing if any sections of the storm water system has gotten clogged with trash or debris. 

Lack of sediment control for temporary stockpiles

This point is related to the previous one. With sites that are undergoing construction or renovation, supplies often get delivered to the premises. When simply left on blacktop or dirt, they can cause sediment build up and contribute to other storm water issues. Stockpiles ought to have covers and silt fences installed to avoid this. 

Unprotected inlets

Storm water infrastructure inspections must deal with multiple kinds of physical assets, and two of the most important are a system’s inlets and outlets. Why? For one thing, a properly designed system will maximize the distance between inlets and outlets, which is an essential part of the process known as dewatering and involves the promotion of a safe working environment by removing water. However, failing to protect a system’s inlets can lead to complications. 

When silt, sand, grit, rocks, and/or debris consistently strike a system’s inlets, they eventually begin to develop wear and cracking. Should the inlet’s entrance become too damage, it will allow more and more material to accumulate within the storm water drainage system’s channels, and they will gradually become less efficient or fail entirely. The most common evidence that a system has failed to function is flooding, which can cause property damage, hydroplaning vehicles, and environmental damage if the dewatering effluent is contaminated.  

There are several options for protecting drainage inlets. Some of these include silt fences, rock walls, and intentionally planted vegetation. And while most of this section has focused on inlets since they’re the first line of defense (so to speak), much of it also applies to storm water outlets, which can also cause similar problems if they get damaged. 

Untreated dewatering and pollutant discharges

Many kinds of sites won’t have to worry about potential contaminants in their storm water runoff. For instance, residential communities typically only have to concern themselves with contaminants, but it’s a different story when it comes to factories, food processing, and construction sites. Part of your job as an environmental professional will involve taking visual samples of the water at a site. In addition to observing its color, clarity, and any potential sediment, you should check the sample for other characteristics. Does it possess an odd odor? Does its surface shine with an unnatural sheen? Do you see a sort of foam on its top? All of these are signs of potential contamination. 

Sites that are dealing with contamination will have to take concrete steps to remedy it. Depending on the type of contamination, these may include using oil/water separators, filtration, centrifugation, well construction, and more. 

Insufficient BMP maintenance

Storm water best management practices (BMPs) are both structural and non-structural methods of determining that storm water gets dealt with in the best manner possible. However, for most businesses and organizations, maintaining top-tier BMPs isn’t their foremost priority. When vigilance has lapsed for a significant period of time, environmental hazards can develop. A storm-water-certified environmental professional’s BMP checklist should include the following: 

  • Protecting areas of particularly valuable storm-water management benefit, such as wetlands, floodplains, and soils created under saturated conditions (i.e., hydric soils) 
  • Protecting areas through which storm water naturally flows 
  • Encouraging clustered and denser development so that building occurs over the smallest possible area 
  • Encouraging grading that flows with the area’s natural contours 
  • Encouraging the replanting of once-lush areas that discouraged erosion 
  • Redirection of rooftop downspouts from flowing to storm sewers and out into grassy or vegetated areas 
  • Encouraging street sweeping, which helps keep inlets functioning properly 
  • Encouraging storm-water-friendly zoning at a municipal level 

Improper solid waste or hazardous materials management

Industrial, construction, manufacturing, and even small businesses can all taint storm water runoff if they fail to properly manage hazardous materials. In previous decades, storm water and ground water conservation efforts would often involve efforts such as ensuring that gasoline and natural gas storage wasn’t inadvertently leaking. And while such efforts are essential, those with a storm water inspection certification know that they need to take a much wider view. Managing common materials such as oil, paint, industrial solvents, and trash is also important. 

Certified Environmental Storm Water Compliance Professionals who have been certified by NREPSMSM can spot all of these problem areas and more. For nearly three decades, NREPSM has helped educate and train environmental and safety professionals to meet the latest challenges in the field. Not only is NREPSM the largest nonprofit environmental accrediting agency, but it has also received recognition from the United States Department of Energy and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Contact us today to learn more about our storm water management certification!