EROSION & SEDIMENT CONTROL
What is E & S?
PA Code, Title 25, Chapter 102 mandates that anyone engaged in "earth disturbance activities" must develop, implement, and maintain erosion control Best Management Practices (BMPs) to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation into Pennsylvania waterways. Locally, the VCD administers this program. An earth disturbance activity is defined as: a construction or other human activity which disturbs the surface of the land, including, but not limited to, clearing and grubbing, grading, excavations, embankments, land development, agriculture tiling and plowing, timber harvesting activities, road maintenance activities, mineral extraction, and the moving, depositing, stockpiling or storing of soil, rock, or earth minerals. These activities, which expose bare earth to the forces of nature including wind and water, present the opportunity for accelerated erosion (that erosion that would not normally happen without the influence of man) and the possibility of sediment deposition into streams and other bodies of water. That deposition is referred to as sediment pollution, which can be very harmful to aquatic ecosystems. Sediment pollution (also an example of non-point source pollution) can be harmful because it can:
1. Make it difficult for fish to breathe by clogging their gills.
2. It can cover fish eggs and gravel spawning nests.
3. Clouds the water and deprives plants the light needed for photosynthesis.
4. It can destroy food supply by covering aquatic insect habitat on the stream bottom.
5. Sediment can also carry other pollutants such as heavy metals, pesticides, and excess nutrients.
The goal of the program is to provide sufficient erosion control while the earth is exposed until such time that vegetation or some other impervious layer such as black-top can be re-established. Erosion control BMPs include items such as silt fence, hay bales, collection channels, sediment traps and basins, and ultimately permanent vegetation.
Are permits necessary?
The specific details of your earthmoving activity determine the level of regulatory influence on a project. Erosion control BMPs are required for any earth disturbance regardless of size. Once the disturbed acreage reaches 5000sqft (about 70ft by 70ft) those BMPs have to be set forth in a written Erosion & Sediment Control Plan. E&S Plans must be designed based on specific criteria set forth in the E&S Pollution Control Program Manual and kept on the site during construction. When the disturbed area reaches one (1) acre, projects are required to obtain permit coverage under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program. An NPDES permit is required to release stormwater discharges from the site during construction. A project of this size requires the written E&S Plan and associated permit documents to be reviewed by the Conservation District to assure consistency with the regulations. More specific information regarding your proposed earthmoving activity and the need for permits can be obtained by contacting the VCD.
NPDES Permits are now required for activities from 1 or more acres. Since 2010, construction activities that proposed to disturb 1 or more acres of land have been required to obtain coverage under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The federally (EPA) mandated regulations aimed to better protect streams and other bodies of water from uncontrolled erosion and sediment pollution. In order to help local citizens better understand and comply with the regulations, the VCD agreed to administer the program a the county level (through the DEP). As of November 19th, 2010 the EPA has revised the regulations to now include any construction activities proposing to disturb between 1 acre or more.
Project requirements will still involve designing, implementing and maintaining an erosion & sediment (E&S) plan to minimize the potential of accelerated erosion & sedimentation. A new aspect however, requires the development of a Post Construction Stormwater Management Plan (PCSM). This plan must manage and treat stormwater leaving the site after construction is completed to protect water quality. Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) should be used to maximize groundwater infiltration and protect the structural integrity of the receiving streams.
Projects located in High Quality (HQ) or Exceptional Value (EV) watersheds must have the PCSM plan reviewed by the DEP Soils and Waterways Section in Meadville or adequacy. EV and HQ watersheds in Venango County included Hemlock Creek, Dennison Run, Cherry Run, and Little Sandy Creek.
Farming operations, such as plowing and tilling, are exempt from permit requirements, provided they have a conservation plan developed and implement BMPs to reduce erosion.