Erosion and Sediment Control on Construction Sites
What is erosion?
Soil erosion is the wearing away of the land surface (including detachment and movement of soil particles) by running water, wind, ice, and gravity. Henrico County’s Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) Program primarily deals with erosion resulting from water (raindrop impact and surface runoff) on un-stabilized soil during the construction process.
Erosion can occur naturally, without requiring human action. This is called geologic or natural erosion. According to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, natural erosion produces approximately 30 percent of the total sediment load generated in the United States. Accelerated erosion is much more rapid than normal or geologic erosion. It is primarily the result of the influence of activities of man, animals, and/or natural catastrophes that expose bare surfaces. Examples are surface mining, forestry, agriculture, construction, and fires.
Henrico County’s ESC program focuses primarily on construction activities. Erosion resulting from these activities can be 200 times greater than the amount of erosion generated from grassland and 2,000 times greater than that naturally occurring in woodlands.
What is a land disturbing activity?
A land disturbing activity is any man-made change to the land surface that may result in soil erosion from water or wind and the movement of sediments into state waters or onto lands in the Commonwealth, including, but not limited to clearing (including removal of trees), grading, excavating, transporting, and filling of land. In Henrico County, an approved erosion and sediment control plan is required for any land disturbing activity that exceeds 2,500 square feet of land disturbance.
However, the following activities are specifically exempt from the definition and the erosion and sediment control plan requirements:
- Minor land-disturbing activities such as home gardens and individual home landscaping, repairs and maintenance work;
- Individual service connections;
- Installation, maintenance, or repair of any underground public utility lines when such activity occurs on an existing hard surfaced road, street or sidewalk provided the land-disturbing activity is confined to the area of the road, street or sidewalk that is hard surfaced;
- Septic tank lines or drainage fields unless included in an overall plan for land-disturbing activity relating to construction of the building to be served by the septic tank system;
- Permitted surface or deep mining operations and projects, or oil and gas operations and projects conducted pursuant to Title 45.1;
- Tilling, planting, or harvesting of agricultural, horticultural, or forest crops, livestock feedlot operations, or as additionally set forth by the Board in regulation, including engineering operations as follows: construction of terraces, terrace outlets, check dams, de-silting basins, dikes, ponds, ditches, strip cropping, lister furrowing, contour cultivating, contour furrowing, land drainage and land irrigation; however, this exception shall not apply to harvesting of forest crops unless the area on which harvesting occurs is reforested artificially or naturally in accordance with the provisions of § 10.1-1100 et seq. of the Code of Virginia or is converted to bona fide agricultural or improved pasture use as described in § 10.1-1163 (B) of the Code of Virginia;
- Repair or rebuilding of the tracks, right-of-way, bridges, communication facilities and other related structures and facilities of a railroad company;
- Agricultural engineering operations, including but not limited to the construction of terraces, terrace outlets, check dams, de-silting basins, dikes, ponds not required to comply with the provisions of the Dam Safety Act (§ 10.1-604 et seq. of the Code of Virginia), ditches, strip cropping, lister furrowing, contour cultivating, contour furrowing, land drainage and land irrigation;
- Disturbed land areas of less than 2,500 square feet in size;
- Installation of fence and sign posts or telephone and electric poles and other kinds of posts or poles;
- Shoreline erosion control projects on tidal waters when all of the land disturbing activities are within the regulatory authority of and approved by local wetlands boards, the Marine Resources Commission or the United States Army Corps of Engineers; however, any associated land that is disturbed outside of this exempted area shall remain subject to this article and the regulations adopted pursuant thereto; and
- Emergency work to protect life, limb or property, and emergency repairs; however, if the land-disturbing activity would have required an approved erosion and sediment control plan, if the activity were not an emergency, then the land area disturbed shall be shaped and stabilized in accordance with the requirements of the VESCP authority.
If you are uncertain as to whether or not a specific activity is regulated, please contact Patrick Weddel, Senior Environmental Inspector, at (804)727-8328.