Doctors take an oath—the Hippocratic Oath—that states that they should do no harm. Construction companies should probably do the same! A major part of any project is working through the logistics for safety, both for personnel and equipment, as well as the site and the environment around it.
Changes in our climate are indicating that rainfall and rising water tables will change how the construction industry deals with stormwater and other environmental impacts, as part of their day to day reality.
What is stormwater management?
Imagine the earth without man-made objects on it. Rain and melting snow would all have their natural paths to runoff and rejoin larger bodies of water, without being blocked, rerouted, or otherwise altered.
Now add people, buildings, roads and the general infrastructure that comes with humankind. Suddenly, the natural pathways are disrupted: how much water can flow and where it can flow is altered.
With the aim of doing no harm, the construction industry needs to put emphasis on carefully considering how to manage stormwater as part of a larger, integrated solution, when excavating, building and forever changing the landscape.
Why is stormwater management important in construction?
As mentioned above, every change to the landscape, whether its roads, buildings or other constructs, interrupts the natural flow of runoff. If not properly managed, flooding can result.
Further, adding a lot of water-impervious surfaces—think paving paradise to put up a parking lot!—creates a runoff surface that takes pollutants into natural waterways in ever greater quantities.
Managing stormwater is essential for both the health and safety of people, as well as the environment.
Managing stormwater effectively
An effective stormwater management system will incorporate three factors:
- Treatment of water quality
- Control of runoff
- Infiltration of runoff into groundwater
Developing communities around the country have historically depended on detention ponds to hold stormwater runoff and release it slowly, controlling it as it returns to a natural body of water.
However, the frequency and intensity of storms are a concern in our ever-changing climate, making many of these holding ponds insufficiently sized. Further, they weren’t designed to feed into the groundwater system, so the third factor noted above is effectively ignored.
Finding ways to control runoff more effectively has several benefits:
- Lowers the possibility of localized flooding and resulting damage, following intense periods of storm activity.
- Feeds into groundwater supplies, recharging these for use as the water supply of the community.
- Reducing pollutants that are added to the water supply via groundwater, which affects all of us directly, as well as the ecosystem that supports us. Runoff can include bacteria from trash and animal waste, oil, gas, and grease from vehicles, toxic chemicals like pesticides and so much more.
This is the kind of action that needs to be taken at the beginning of any construction project, with the larger ecosystem/environment surrounding the project in mind. There are federal, state and local laws that govern how permits are acquired to excavate and build in order to minimize the human and environmental impact of stormwater.
So while it may seem like one more level of government to get through in a project, the importance of having a well-designed stormwater management plan in any construction project cannot be overstated. At OE Construction, we take safety seriously: for our people and for the environment.