Erosion and Sediment Control Program
Erosion is a general term meaning the gradual removal of a substance by wind, water, or another natural process. In this context, we mean soil, sediment, or dirt being gradually washed away by water. While erosion and sediment transport are natural processes, the acceleration and frequency of these processes is problematic. Sediment from soil erosion is the number one pollutant for streams statewide.
Sediment in streams can cloud the water, a process called turbidity; it can also clog up the space between stream bed rocks, where certain fish and insects lay eggs and live, which is a process called siltation. Other pollutants such as heavy metals and nutrients can “hitch a ride” on sediment and make their way into streams and lakes. Excessive sediment is a water quality pollutant that is detrimental to many organisms that use the stream as habitat, including benthic macroinvertebrates. Benthic macroinvertebrates are aquatic insects which live a portion of their lives in a stream either under rocks or other submerged habitat. These insects are very beneficial to the ecosystem and their presence (or absence) tells scientists a lot about the water quality of the stream. Land disturbance at construction sites is characterized as a primary source of excessive sediment entering our creeks, and streams.
Our goal for erosion and sediment pollution controls is to limit the generation and transport of sediments associated with land disturbance during construction activities. This goal is achieved through the administration of programs that include certification and training programs, the dissemination of erosion and sediment control best practices, review of erosion and sediment control plans, implementation of routine inspections, reliance on regulatory measures for abatement and enforcement, and implementation of self-monitoring. The City of Burlington and NCDOT are directly responsible for implementing these pollution controls within the boundaries of their program’s authority for qualifying construction activities. The City of Graham relies on NCDEQ to administer the program on their behalf. For the Cities of Graham and Burlington, qualifying construction activities are limited to land disturbance of an acre or greater while NCDOT administers their program for all land disturbances within the right-of-way.
The project partners have had erosion and sediment control programs within the boundaries of the Little Alamance Creek watershed since the 1970s. Ongoing efforts within the programs include performing maintenance for the duration of the project and evaluating and adapting controls to increase performance. Given the low remaining development potential of the watershed, it is anticipated that these pollution controls will not play a significant role in addressing existing stressors in Little Alamance Creek watershed but will help prevent exacerbating the current level of impairment. With NCDOT’s significant involvement in linear construction across the state, NCDOT’s ongoing research on the best technologies and methods for controlling erosion and sediment will be deployed in Little Alamance Creek watershed for their construction activities.