Expert Manages Storm Water Discharge in Active Construction Sites

Aug. 17, 2012
Alberson uses meter to manage runoff, perform site inspection & remediation, & conduct environmental training

Mike Alberson, an expert in storm water pollution prevention, uses the Ultrameter II to meet new and existing state and federal requirements for storm water monitoring. He checks for the presence of pollutants by testing the levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) and conductivity. He also tests storm water pH levels in accordance with NPDES guidelines implemented in California in 2010 that mandate pH testing for all Risk Level 2 and 3 sites.

Though TDS and conductivity do not indicate the presence of any specific contaminant, monitoring these parameters is a good way to determine an increase in the concentration of dissolved chemical constituents generally. High conductivity or TDS levels are a red flag to Alberson to investigate potential sources of pollution.

Chemicals used in landscaping, such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, as well as materials such as cement, can all potentially dissolve into storm water runoff. Additionally, acidic or basic pollutants impact the quality of water by altering the pH of the runoff. Monitoring is required because altering the pH alters the types and amounts of all chemical constituents in runoff and, thereby, its toxicity. Changes in pH also impact the ecosystem directly when they exceed the narrow range required by biota to live in the receiving waters. The new California NPDES requirements have set a pH range limit of 6.5 to 8.5 pH Units

The State Water Quality Board’s overall goal in implementing increased monitoring and reporting requirements is to evaluate the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) on effluent pollution and the impact that construction activities have on receiving waters. Developers and inspectors like Alberson are continually challenged with preventing potential pollutants from leaving the project sites, and when that happens, they need to remediate any adverse affects on the environment.

As a pre-requisite to construction, the Developer of Plan must generate and gain approval of BMPs and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs) which take into account the nature of the project’s building schedule, phasing of the project, building materials, the projected rainfall, the percentage of impervious cover on the project and the impact that potential storm water runoff could have on receiving waters.  The plans must also address the required monitoring and critical indicators of specific pollutants projected to discharge from the project site.

The site storm water inspector has to ensure that the necessary BMPs are implemented throughout the length of the project, as defined by the project SWPPP plan, which addresses project-specific site conditions and risk level determinations.  Alberson uses the meter frequently on Barnhart Balfour Beatty projects as most fall into a category of Risk Level 2, which now requires pH monitoring along during a rain event of 0.5 in. or more.

New California requirements have required all SWPPP developers and inspectors to be certified by the state since Sept. 2, 2011 via a special course given by designated State Trainers of Record (TOR). Alberson is designated as a TOR and offers California’s new Qualified SWPPP Practitioner and Qualified SWPPP Developers courses. 

As a trainer, Alberson passes on knowledge gained from his own experience. Through the years, he has seen inspectors send water samples off to laboratories for analysis, the results of which would not be known for up to two weeks. In addition, the pH of these samples would change in the time it took to get the samples to the labs for analysis. Alberson now trains developers and inspectors to use the Ultrameter II to immediately measure pH, thereby ensuring storm water runoff on project sites is precisely monitored for potential pollutants in real time.

In his own work as an inspector, Alberson has used the Ultrameter II to respond to potential pollution issues as they arise. For example, at Barnhart Balfour Beatty’s Otay Ranch Village #6 Elementary School project in Otay Mesa, Calif., he developed a remediation solution that prevented environmental contamination from high pH runoff resulting from a required lime treatment of the campus soil. By performing onsite testing following a rain event, Alberson was able to determine the potential runoff had a pH level of 12.5.  He decided to immediately utilize a retention pond with carbon dioxide percolation control techniques. His remediation tactic worked using the meter to continuously monitor the pH until it was at a level acceptable for release into the receiving waters.

Source: Myron L Company

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