Tom Flader says he can remember a time when water runoff wasn’t so heavily mandated. If you were digging a hole to repair a pipe and it filled with water, all you had to do was pump the muddy water out of the hole so you could do the work.
Today you not only need to collect the water in a silt bag, you need to haul it away and properly dispose of it so it doesn’t cause further problems or potential damage.
Whether mandated or not, erosion control is a critical element of any landscape project and is the responsibility of those designing and executing the job.
For many, like Flader, who is the owner of Libertyville, Ill.-based TGF Enterprises, the problem is storm water runoff. “If a site isn’t graded correctly and gets a lot of water, that water can erode the soil,” Flader says. “That’s why it’s necessary to get ahead of whatever project you are working on and plan for those potential problems.”
Poor design on existing projects is always an issue, but new construction is also a common culprit. “Simply by the nature of building something you can create different water patterns on the property and cause erosion,” Flader says. “To prevent these problems, it needs to be given thought in advance.”
Failing to give erosion control advanced thought can cause problems down the line. Jonathan Tucker, GCLP, owner of Team Turf Landscapes, LLC, in Marietta, Ga., says these issues can have an impact well-beyond the job site.
“Rushing through the beginning phases of a job where erosion control has to be considered can affect the surrounding areas – neighborhoods, waterways, even wildlife,” Tucker says. “Silt from a construction or landscaping site can easily make its way into a nearby stream and be funneled into a neighboring lake. Once the silt ends up in the lake, it can force dredging and unnecessary financial burden on those responsible for that body of water.”
Tucker says he’s seen these scenarios unravel many times. “What’s so frustrating is that some simple planning and foresight in the design process can save everyone involved both time and money,” he adds. The key is looking at the big picture, Tucker says. “You can’t simply stop your design concept and your work at the physical property lines,” he says.
“Any slight change to a piece of property will affect the neighboring land around it, and any adjustment to the physicality of the land will change the way water makes its way across it.
“It’s our responsibility to consider the topography of the area, the percentage of surface area exposed to bare ground, the direction of runoff flow, and any neighboring waterways that could be affected.”
While designs are done in the office, a site inspection should not be ignored. “The plans should not be developed without someone actually surveying the site in person,” Flader says. “We’re the boots on the ground guys who execute the work but it’s critical that when those plans are devised that a surveyor engineer was out on the site.”
Flader says the decomposition of the erosion materials is another component to be considered in advance. “Everything needs to decompose within a certain time frame,” he says.
“Planting seed naturally assists with slowing erosion. And you want any material you install to properly decompose. It’s a transition that takes place over time and it needs advanced planning to happen the way it should.”
It sounds simple enough but Tucker says problems often begin when details are overlooked. Even the smallest details in a design may have critical significance. “The bottom line is that the design should be followed,” Tucker says. “There’s a reason erosion control is necessary and not following the design is just not smart. Cutting corners to make the job faster or more profitable can be a big mistake.”
Tucker says companies aiming to operate lean and efficient may skip some important steps, but it could cost them in the long run. “A lot of companies are eager to get started on the project which forces them to rush through the most important step of the job which is always erosion control,” Tucker says.
“Water is a powerful force and the necessary steps to control it have to be taken in the initial stages of the project. That means planning for it during the design.”