Construction Site Erosion Control
Cuyahoga County, OH

Grantee: Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $35,000
Non-federal Funds: $30,973
Project Duration: 10/1992 - 00/0000
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Sediment from urban construction is a major pollutant in the Cuyahoga River and near-shore areas of Lake Erie (Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan, Phase I, Draft). Construction sites have also been identified in the Ohio Nonpoint Source Management Program as the land use that has the greatest impact per acre on the environment. Water quality uses are being impacted by construction site erosion.

Temporary seeding and mulching

Erosion rates from construction sites are typically one to two orders of magnitude higher than other land uses, and the continued and accelerating pace of development in the Great Lakes Basin makes construction sites a primary target for nonpoint source pollution control.

The goal of the Construction Site Erosion Control project is to demonstrate and evaluate a radical but simple new approach to controlling construction site erosion and related phosphorus pollution of downstream areas. The project facilitated the application of temporary vegetative cover on disturbed areas of a construction site by a person independent of the traditional construction process.

The study area was the East Branch of the Rocky River, in the City of North Royalton, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The designated water quality uses for the river are warm water habitat, industrial and agricultural water supply, primary contact recreation and a state resource water. The river is currently in only partial attainment of these uses.

A 32 acre development in Southampton Woods Subdivision and 15 acre Swan Lake development, both in the city of North Royalton, were selected as demonstration sites for erosion control. The two project goals were to: (1) demonstrate and (2) evaluate a simple approach to controlling construction site soil erosion and related phosphorus pollution.

A straw chopper/blower and trailer were leased to apply temporary seed and mulch to the entire construction site on all areas that were planned to be left bare for 30 days or more. The Ohio Civilian Conservation Corps was contracted for the application of the seed and straw. The lack of rainfall in the spring and summer of 1993 prevented seed germination on large parts of the site. The straw mulch, however, was able to provide adequate erosion protection for the few rain events that did occur. A total of 78.8 tons of straw were used at the two sites. Contour maps -- developed to assess the soil savings -- and water quality samples were taken at three sites. Large scale adoption of these BMPs would have a very positive impact on water quality.

The Cuyahoga SWCD will recommend that 57 municipalities and two townships in Cuyahoga County, Ohio improve their methods for getting temporary seed established on building sites. The recommendation states that two building permits for structures should be issued instead of one. The first permit would allow the installation of footers and basement walls only. The second for the remaining construction. The second permit would not be issued until the builder has applied temporary seeding, mulch and yard drain inlet protection practices. This eliminates the necessity of city fines or shut down orders against builders for erosion control violations.

Realizing the benefits of this project, four additional developers have contacted the field crew in an attempt to hire them to do the same work on their development site. Two spinoff businesses have begun as a result of this project. One business will apply temporary seedings, mulch and storm drain inlet protection to active construction sites and the other business will develop storm water pollution prevention plans and conduct site inspections for the NPDES programs.

Information/Education activities have been extensive:

  • The local Building Industry Association featured the details and results of this project in a news article in June 1994 edition of their magazine Build. The magazine is distributed to all of their members in Cayahoga, Lake and Geauga Counties (Ohio).

  • The International Erosion Control Association also featured the study in its July/August 1994 edition of the international journal Erosion Control.

  • The Cuyahoga SWCD and the Northeast Ohio Area-wide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) cosponsored two workshops that contained some of the knowledge that was gained through this project.

  • Several training tours of the site have also been conducted. A graduate student (Mr. John Snyder) has taken this project on as a thesis project for his Masters Degree at Kent State University. A presentation on the research was made to the 17th International Applied Geography Conference on October 17, 1994. An article on the research data will be submitted to the Association of American Geographers for publication in the journal Physical Geography.

  • The Cuyahoga SWCS also distributed a newsletter about this project and the results. The newsletter was distributed to every professional engineer, and architect in northeast Ohio and to over 550 locally elected officials that govern the 57 municipalities and two townships in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The newsletter received the 1995 "Outstanding Public Interest Publication" from the All-Ohio Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Research results indicated the rapid application of surface cover reduced construction site erosion by up to 90% and the phosphorous losses by up to 86% compared to bare soil conditions. The results of this project have been published in numerous publications and presented at several conferences.

Contact: Jim Storer, (216) 524-6580


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