5 Easy Fixes for Onsite Erosion Control

Not disturbing soil during an installation is a no-brainer. But normal soil erosion can cause headaches. Learn what you can do to control major erosion.

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Soil erosion has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the No. 1 source of water quality degradation/pollution. It becomes everyone’s responsibility to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation loss from onsite installation sites. 

Even if the site is small enough not to warrant a land disturbance permit, it becomes the installer’s responsibility to control soil erosion and stormwater runoff. 

Of course, try to disturb as little soil as possible during any type of construction. However, once the soil is disturbed, there are some ways to cover the surface and reduce water flow across the disturbed soil area. Most of these practices are fairly basic and should be part of an overall onsite installation or repair plan. 

1. A vegetative cover or grass filter strips at and around the construction area is normally the most effective and practical control of erosion and sediment loadings.

By leaving as much grass in the area or by doing onsite construction projects in phases, you can slow runoff and trap sediment. 

Vegetated cover can act as a filter/buffer to capture soil from the disturbed site. Once finished with construction, you should seed as soon as possible to establish grass cover.

Annual plants (such as wheat) sprout rapidly and survive for only one growing season and may provide adequate short-term cover until a permanent vegetative cover can be established. 

2. Natural mulch such as straw and wood chips, or artificial mulch such as geotextile (fabric) rollout blankets, absorb stormwater runoff and are effective as soon as they are applied. 

Mulch is normally used in combination with seeding to provide ground cover during the establishment period for a temporary or permanent vegetative cover. 

3. A silt fence or straw bale barrier is a temporary barrier that should be entrenched and anchored and is used to intercept sediment-laden runoff and provide some retention of sediment from small drainage areas. 

When properly installed a silt fence can be used to reduce runoff velocity and help retain sediment on the site, thus reducing erosion and protecting water quality.

Straw bales can be used for slope protection in disturbed areas to control sheet and rill erosion or in minor swales or ditches to trap sediment-laden runoff.  

4. A temporary sediment trap/pond is a practice used to intercept and hold sediment-laden runoff.

In a larger construction area, a temporary sediment trap may be located in a drainageway or at other points of discharge from a disturbed area to trap runoff water and prevent or reduce off-site sedimentation.

In some construction areas sediment traps are used in conjunction with diversions. 

5. A diversion is a berm (dike or ridge) or a swale (excavated channel or ditch) used to prevent sediment-laden water from leaving a site and to prevent off-site or upstream waters from entering a site.

Typical diversions are a combination berm/swale and may be temporary or permanent structures. They are constructed: 

  • At the top of steep slopes where excess runoff would cause erosion problems.
  • At selected intervals on long, sloping routes.
  • Around a site to prevent entry of off-site runoff and to reduce flooding. 

For onsite sewage system construction or repair, you should have a plan of action to effectively control the potential of soil erosion or sedimentation leaving the work site. 

Many of the practices that are listed here are easy to apply and relatively inexpensive. By doing some of these simple practices you send the message to homeowners that you are concerned about the environment and try hard to protect water quality. 

About the Author

Bob Broz is water quality specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. He teaches classes on soil percolation for onsite installers and developed a class for real estate professionals about understanding onsite systems. He has developed a class for homeowners on the care and maintenance of onsite systems. Readers are welcome to submit questions or article suggestions to Bob. Write to kim.peterson@colepublishing.com.


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