Polluted stormwater runoff is the greatest threat to water quality in South Carolina. A common stormwater pollutant is sediment. Sediment is harmful to water quality because it can contribute to flooding issues and property damage, injure or kill aquatic life and habitat, and limit our ability to swim, fish, or boat in local waterways.
Stormwater runoff can pick up sediment when it becomes exposed to the elements. Various factors can expose sediment to erosive elements, but construction activities are most common. Each year thousands of acres of land in South Carolina undergo construction. Construction sites use sediment and erosion control best management practices (BMPs) to reduce sediment loss and protect water quality. Typical construction site sediment and erosion control BMPs include silt fences, inlet protection, and stabilized construction site entrances.
Silt fences are standard tools used to keep sediment on site. They consist of porous fabric that allows water to pass through the fence but keeps dirt and debris trapped on the other side. However, silt fences do not work if they are collapsed, filled with sediment, or unsecured from the ground. Learn more about how silt fences work and how they can fail with this EPA factsheet.
Inlet protection BMPs are specialized materials placed in front or inside a storm drain. Like silt fences, these materials trap sediment on one side of a barrier and only allow rainwater to enter the storm drain. Standard inlet protection devices include sediment tubes made of coconut fiber, curled excelsior wood, recycled rubber tires, or other materials. Construction sites use sediment tubes to protect curb cut-out inlets. The BMPs do not function if broken, filled with sediment (which can be detected by a color change in the sediment tube or roadway flooding), or made up of inappropriate materials like hay. For more information on sediment tubes and other inlet protection devices, check out this video by The Town of Bluffton.
Stabilized construction site entrances use specialized rock and geotextile fabric to act like a doormat and remove sediment from vehicle tires as they leave the construction site. This practice keeps sediment off the streets and out of our waterways. You can spot a failing construction site entrance if the top layer consists of more sediment than rocks, has a significant number of ruts, and the adjacent streets have clear tire marks made of sediment. Learn more about stabilized construction site entrances with HGIC Factsheet 1860: Stabilized Construction Site Entrances.
If you see an improperly installed or maintained silt fence, inlet protection, or stabilized construction site entrance, you must report it. Failed construction site sediment and erosion control BMPs can easily let harmful sediment enter our waterways. You can report failing BMPs to your local government. If you live in Beaufort County, you can report failing construction site sediment and erosion control BMPs with the following tools:
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