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How Erosion and Sediment Control Standards for Land Development Help Protect the Natural Environment

Developing land responsibly is key to the prosperity of Canadian communities. From highway construction to hydro dams, and residential communities to commercial buildings, each construction project provides many potential benefits. However, the lack of a consistent monitoring or management system can increase the risk of construction projects damaging the natural environment and infrastructure we rely on.

The consequences of erosion and sedimentation resulting from land development projects that lack adequate inspection and monitoring systems can be serious. The potential environmental and capital costs from erosion and sedimentation can be significant; sediment that flows into a stream or wetland can create unlivable conditions for aquatic species, and if heavy sediment clogs stormwater systems, it can damage the infrastructure and result in costly maintenance and repairs.

 

Current Erosion and Sediment Control Practices – and the Gaps

Recent cases have demonstrated the clear need for a consistent framework for erosion and sediment control inspection and monitoring. A federal inspection of a hydro dam project found that there were no erosion and sediment contingency supplies at three of the worksites, even though these supplies were required under the project’s environmental protection plan. A stop-work order was issued for a residential development project because sediment kept washing into a major river. The problem in these cases was not that measures were not in place, but that the measures were deemed to be inadequate.

“We have long-needed a recognized standard that can be adopted, employed, and understood by everyone,” says Andy Ingriselli, President of Aquatech Dewatering in Toronto. “Right now we have a patchwork of guidelines and regulations that do not provide clear benchmarks. It makes sense to me that going in to a project, the contractor and the regulator should know what to expect in terms of establishing monitoring targets and the steps needed to verify that erosion and sediment control measures are doing their job.”

That patchwork includes:

  • The Federal Fisheries Act, which specifies that no person shall harmfully alter, disrupt, or destroy fish habitat, or deposit a deleterious substance in fish frequented waters.
  • Various land development guidelines published by provincial regulators that align with federal requirements in key pieces of legislation such as the Federal Fisheries Act. Some of these guidelines focus on issues such as run-off standards and pond sizing.
  • Provincial legislation such as the Land Act, Water Act, Health Act, Fish Protection Act, Waste Management Act, among others that contain requirements affecting land development.
  • Regional district by-laws for air quality and sewer use.
  • Municipal by-laws for erosion and sediment control, stream-side protection, tree protection and storm water quality.
  • Various guidelines and certification programs

Ingriselli adds, “CSA’s new standard not only sets measurable benchmarks for inspections and monitoring, it clearly details what it takes to be a qualified inspector and it encourages the use of the best available technologies. It is this type of shift toward establishing a common set of best practices and raising the performance bar that will drive continuous improvement in the industry.”

 

Why We Need Standardized Inspection and Monitoring of Erosion and Sediment Controls

From one project to the next, and from one municipality to another, the approach to inspection and monitoring differs greatly. This makes it difficult for the industry – and even regulators – to answer basic questions such as how often to inspect a project site or what water quality monitoring requirements need to be met. These are important questions that impact other critical project considerations such as how much erosion and sediment control measures to install and which performance tests to run to ensure that the measures are working as intended. On top of this, the industry lacks a clear and consistent set of requirements for personnel qualifications for inspection and monitoring.

The lack of consistency and clarity can foster bad business practices, especially during the tender process if developers end up low-balling their environmental protection measures –intentionally or not. For local governments, this presents a significant risk. Consistency in erosion and sediment control for inspection and monitoring requirements can help level the playing field in the industry, ease the planning process for land developers, and offer a reliable benchmark for municipalities to confirm that environmental protection plans are adequate for their communities and local projects.

 

How CSA Group Can Help

While most people recognize CSA Group for its work in electrical standards or its certification mark on home and commercial products, our work extends much further. From health care to public safety, and from nuclear facility management to alternative fuels, our standards porfolio covers a wide range of subjects and industries to help make the world better, safer, and more sustainable. Over the years, we have dedicated considerable time to developing innovative standards for the environment.

The value and efficacy of these standards are powered by our consensus-based approach to standards development. As facilitators, we bring the right people to the table to tackle some of today’s most pressing issues head-on. By doing so, our standards incorporate best practices and valuable insights from a wide range of stakeholders to offer organizations, individuals, and government practical and actionable solutions that meet their needs. This includes our new standard, CAN/CSA-W202-18 – Erosion and Sediment Control Inspection and Monitoring.

 

What is W202 – Erosion and Sediment Control Inspection and Monitoring?

W202-18 was developed by a technical committee of industry experts from across the country. It addresses the gaps that currently exist in the industry by outlining:

  • Qualifications for inspectors and inspectors-in-training
  • Qualitative inspection requirements for pre-, during, and post-construction phases
  • Quantitative monitoring targets for total suspended solids (TSS) and nephelometeric turbidity units (NTU) using two common techniques: receiving watercourse monitoring and effluent discharge monitoring
  • Requirements and recommendations for special conditions
  • Processes and procedures for documenting and communicating findings

 

What are the Benefits of the W202 Standard?

By complying with the standard, users will be able to demonstrate that erosion and sediment control measures are installed where they should be, functioning as expected, and that every reasonable effort is being made to prevent impacts to the environment and infrastructure around the construction site. The standard also helps:

  • Create fairness in the tender process by leveling the playing field through consistent requirements
  • Provide a much-needed baseline for regulators
  • Enhance risk management plans
  • Prevent erosion
  • Minimize sedimentation
  • Avoid costly impacts to both our natural and built environments

Perhaps one of the standard’s greatest advantages is that it is designed to complement and fill gaps in existing best practice guidelines, rules, and regulations.

“It was really important that we didn’t add to the confusion by just creating another guidance document,” says Dave Green, a Fisheries Qualified Environmental Professional based in Calgary. “So many municipalities, provinces, associations, and developers have already created their own erosion and sediment control policies and guidelines. W202 was developed to work with those existing guidelines where there are gaps, or where they provide little direction on ESC measure inspection steps or perfomance-based monitoring targets.”

Green adds, “at the end of the day, it’s about fostering consistency and making things more efficient. If W202 is referenced in an applicable guideline or a construction permit, and as a result it makes the ESC measure inpsection and monitoring expectations for a project clear to all parties from the get go, then the standard is accomplishing what we had hoped it would.”

CAN/CSA W202-18 can is now available at store.csagroup.org.

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