Protecting South Carolina’s streams and lakes

By Tom Lollis

Cal SawyerConstruction contractors are learning to protect the state’s valuable water resources through Clemson Extension training programs. These programs teach best management practices to prevent erosion on construction sites and to keep sediment out of streams and lakes.

“If sediment is not contained, it can reduce water clarity, smother aquatic habitat and carry pollutants into surface water,” said John Hayes, Clemson professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

One program, S.C. Clear Water Contractor, teaches construction industry and state agency personnel the practices needed to comply with federal and state regulations on construction site runoff.

A second program began last fall at the request of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). This program certifies inspectors to ensure that erosion prevention and sediment control practices are in effect on construction sites greater than one acre, as required by federal regulations. Clemson University is the only organization in the state providing the training needed for certification.

The inspectors’ program teaches the most effective erosion and sediment control practices for various types of terrain. Instructors use digital video to teach inspectors how to review grading plans and use actual grading plans to teach best management practice details and how to conduct effective field inspections.

“We don’t have the capacity to educate every single person in construction in the state,” said Cal Sawyer, Clemson Extension water quality coordinator. “That could be tens of thousands of people. By educating the inspectors, however, Clemson connects to every regulated construction site in the state.”

Dwayne Creel, DHEC’s manager of the Stormwater, Agricultural and Dams and Reservoir Safety Permitting Section, agrees. “This is a perfect example of state agencies working together. Clemson organized the coursework and written certification exam with the help of DHEC, the office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the S.C. Department of Transportation.”

More than 1,000 inspectors and 800 construction professionals have been trained in these programs since 2003. Jason Gillespie, stormwater management director for Greenville County, has seen a striking difference in erosion control measures as a result of these programs. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but until these programs, it was a reality on a lot of sites,” he said.

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