Saturday, November 13, 2010

How phosphorus escapes from construction sites

When you see mud in the lakes, you know phosphorus is escaping. 
Lake Mendota 7/7/10.

Studies show that 19% of the phosphorus in our lakes--an important nutrient that causes the growth of toxic algae--comes from construction site erosion.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is dumping concrete waste illegal in Madison?

Concrete wastewater, and the slurry from cutting concrete with a saw, are very toxic to aquatic life.  In addition, the waste contains chromium, a known carcinogen that can contaminate groundwater.

So... is dumping this material at a construction site illegal in Madison?

Rawson cleans mud from box culvert

Thanks to Rawson (and City inspectors) for cleaning the mud from the box culvert under Old Middleton Rd. 

Now the mud won't move to the lake in the next big storm.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Concrete wastewater pollution in Madison

After I noticed concrete wastewater dumped at many construction sites around Madison, I decided to research the topic.  Here's what I found... so far.  Research in progress--your comments are welcome.

Concrete waste illegally dumped by Rawson Contractors close to Lake Monona at Lowell St. 11/7/10

Concrete wastewater is a white or grayish fluid.  It comes from washing equipment used to mix or deliver concrete.  It is often combined with a pile of leftover concrete.  You can spot it as a white stain--on pavement,  or on a prepared surface about to be paved.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rawson fails to clean mud from box culvert

The Rawson construction site on Old Middleton Rd is a mess--completely unprepared for rain.  In their defence, no rain was forecast for the weekend.  But much work remains to prepare for the rain forecast for next Thursday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Average" isn't good enough any more...

Madison--not an average city
The view--as Rawson Contractors pumped mud into Monona Bay.

"...Just doing your job in an average way — in this integrated and automated global economy — will lead to below-average wages. Sadly, average is over. We’re in the age of “extra,” and everyone has to figure out what extra they can add to their work to justify being paid more than a computer, a Chinese worker or a day laborer." Thomas Friedman

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Krupp--Please be a good neighbor!

The Sequoia Commons project, Phase II, is nearing completion.

On the whole, I have been satisfied with erosion control for this project.  Except at the entrances, the site never sheds muddy runoff, and gravel pads were improved (N end) when I made suggestions. 

Nevertheless, problems at the two construction entrances have continued throughout...

Inaccurate inspection reports by City Engineering

Update 10/28, 10:00 am: Tim Troester has posted a new inspection for the Greenway project for 10/27.  His accurate inspection adds important detail, including the time and photos.  Therefore, I believe that Engineering is responding to my comments below, and that the situation is improving.

Accurate reporting is essential if our erosion control regulations are to work.  They could provide the feedback that engineers and regulators need to see if their erosion control measures are working. And they are essential to holding contractors accountable to regulations.

Inspection reports are legal documents.  They need to be accurate and detailed enough to stand up in court, under cross-examination.  Inspections by the City of Madison, for the most part, are neither accurate* nor detailed. 

For that reason, some citizens have lost faith that contractors are accountable.  That's why a lawsuit was filed by residents outraged by Speedway's behavior.  And accountability is the reason for this blog.  Our thousands of photos stand as accurate inspections.  Each photo has a time stamp--in contrast to City inspections, which so far lack this basic element.

Yet Contractor Report has found instances of inaccurate inspections.

The dangers of bidding low on erosion control

On the Hillcrest-Upland Greenway project, S&L Underground and Trucking bid only $500 on "stormwater control."

Either they were completely ignorant that this was a ravine draining half a mile of basin... or they thought: "We'll get the contract, then worry about the details later."

Now the time to "worry about the details" has arrived.

Problems with water main project on Gilmore St

Parisi has been doing a good job with the water main project on Gilmore St.  It's a site of special concern, because of steepness and proximity to LakeWingra.   Here's what we liked...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rawson Contractors pumps unfiltered muddy water into Monona Bay

This is the third dirty project we've noted for Rawson Contractors.  The first.  The second.

Over the rainy weekend, I received a tip from a local resident that a stormwater project on Lowell St. had unprotected stormwater inlets.  This is a site of special concern, because it's just a few feet from Lake Monona.  So Monday afternoon, I looked at the site.

Reports about problems from the weekend's rain

Today we'll be reporting on...
Sequoia Commons--Krupp Construction
Gilmore Street water/stormwater--Parisi Construction
For S&L Underground & Trucking at the greenway project, go here.

Stay tuned...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Starting coverage of S&L Underground and Trucking at Greenway project

This is a project of special concern, due to fears of residents that too many trees will be removed or damaged, and due to the steep ravine that drains a large basin.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Did the Lindsay paint factory contaminate Madison's water supply?

Hallman Lindsay manufactures paints in Sun Prairie, WI.   They proudly display their "Green Leaf Promise of responsibility to the environment.  But there is evidence that the old Lindsay* paint factory in Madison contaminated Madison's water supply, requiring the abandonment of Well #3 and a costly search for new supplies.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Parisi Construction VS Mother Nature

Score: Parisi 1, Nature 0...    But nature always bats last

Since Gilmore St is a hilly construction site, close to Lake Wingra, Contractor Report is going to monitor events closely.  It's an especially interesting match, with Parisi going the extra mile to meet the challenge.

The first inning began with a rain of 0.57 inches on Saturday (9/18/10). Photos were taken about 6:00 pm on Sunday.  Overall, the erosion-control measures were adequate for this amount of rain.  But it was a light rain--probably the measures would have started to fail--dumping sediment beyond the site--above perhaps 1 inch of rain.  Details for each method...
Overall, very little sediment left the site.
Photo shows bottom of Gilmore at Monroe.

Check dams

Runoff did an end run around most of the nine check dams on Gilmore St, but as you would expect, the further down Gilmore, the more water accumulated.  So the lowest 4 check dams all had water flowing around them.

Dam 7 at Cross St, a small one, had water flow around and then down Cross St, washing a small amount of sediment into an unprotected inlet on Chapman St.
The check dams are robust and fairly effective.  Their problems:
  • Runoff flowed around most of the dams, especially on the inside where space has been left for traffic.
  • The dams are made of large stones.  Check dams are supposed to have 1" stone on the upper side, to more effectively filter sediment--but these dams do not have small stones..  Dam 6 was so porous that much runoff flowed through the middle, creating a small gully below it.
Solutions:  Create or enlarge gravel wings on either side of the dams.  Add 1" clear stone to upper side.

Catch basins

A lot of runoff entered Gilmore from Gregory St.

The basins were too small to contain all of this light rain, overflowing and causing end runs around the dams.  But the small basins did catch a lot of the sediment.

At the bottom of Gilmore, runoff overflowed the basin
and did an end run around the dam.

Solutions:  Dig larger basins, and/or divert clear runoff entering from upper Cross St and Gregory St.  Another catch basin needs to be built below Dam 7 on Cross St, using silt socks anchored by concrete or gravel barriers.  The overflow from this basin should be directed into the stormwater inlet there.

Compacted sand on excavated side of street

For this light rain, the compacted sand (probably with polymer added) worked well--although a few small gullys did form (right).

This site is similar to Edgewood Avenue, except that here runoff enters from two blocks--Cross and Gregory Streets.  The Edgewood site wasn't fed by any other streets.  Nevertheless, Edgewood was heavily gullied by only 1.75 in of rain last summer. 

The cause of the Edgewood disaster was leaving both sides of the street bare, plus inadequate check dams.  The dams were too few, and they didn't protect the whole street.  Projecting a short distance from the sides, they aimed water towards the middle, where large gullies formed. 

Edgewood Av during a storm of 1.75 inches on June 21

Compacted sand isn't strong enough to prevent this from happening on Gilmore in a similar storm.

Improvements needed to prevent gullies:
  • If possible, don't remove pavement on both sides at once.
  • Use silt socks to fine-tune direction of runoff between dams, preventing one gully from forming.
  • Reduce volume of runoff by diverting clear runoff from Gregory St, and by diverting runoff from upper Gilmore to a temporary catch basin on Cross St.
Update--Monday evening

Monday's work suggests that Parisi may be trying to divert runoff from Gregory St by removing the pavement, to create a shallow channel so runoff from Gregory can get over the hump of Gilmore St and continue down Gregory (rather than flowing down Gilmore).

Looking up Gregory from Gilmore. Runoff can still enter Gilmore (L)

If that is the goal, the grade isn't sufficient to divert runoff coming from Gregory.  Further grading needs to be done.  Removal of the pavement has actually made things worse--now runoff from the upper (NW) gutter of Gregory can also flow down Gilmore.

More photos of Sept 19 after rain

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Parisi shows welcome creativity and care at sensitive Gilmore site

Parisi Construction recently began work resurfacing Gilmore St, between Monroe and Gregory.  Contractor Report is very pleased to note this company's creativity and diligence in erosion control.

Note large check dams, long gravel pad, clean street/gutters on left.
View from Monroe St up Gilmore.

This is a sensitive site, because it's steep, close to Lake Wingra, and has runoff entering from outside, from Cross and Gregory streets.

We appreciate these measures that go beyond the minimum
  • Large check dams, holding large stones together with wire cages (called gabions)
  • Silt sock in one of the gravel pads; gravel pads of regulation length
  • Thorough cleaning of the street, using water plus a bobcat
  • Sand compacted with a roller on the disturbed side of the street.
  • Parisi responded within hours to requested improvements
Nevertheless, one concern remains:  The catch basins (pits in the street) at the bottom of the hill are almost certainly too small for all the runoff resulting from a big storm.*   The pits there may overflow, flushing much sediment onto Monroe St and into the stormwater inlets there.

Pit (catchment basin) in front of dam, at bottom of Gilmore.
The pit will quickly overflow; then water will flow around the dam.

Solutions exist to reduce the runoff going down the steep hill:
  • Deflect clean runoff coming from Gregory Street, so it continues down Gregory
  • Send some runoff from higher on Gilmore St into a temporary cloth catchment basin on the lower side of Cross St (where there's a stormwater inlet).
  • There is also one stormwater inlet next to Wingra School which could accept some runoff from Gilmore St.  A temporary channel to that inlet would have to be built.
#    #    #

*  Probably the pits will get larger as construction proceeds--as pipe is laid.  Still, the same solutions apply.  By deflecting and detaining runoff higher up, less runoff will come down the steep hill--meaning less erosion, less damage to the construction zone, and less cleanup.

More photos from 9/15.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Erosion control error will cause extra work for Rawson

At their Old Middleton Rd construction site, Rawson Construction has had numerous problems.  Now, failure to filter runoff flowing into a box culvert will cause additional, unnecessary work.

This is the sole exit for stormwater from a large basin.  Rawson neglected to filter stormwater entering this box culvert during recent heavy rains of over 2 inches.

The area around the culvert construction, especially its sides, are heavily disturbed.  The only protection between this culvert and Lake Mendota, half a mile away, is one gravel dam.  It's quite porous, allowing fine sediment to pass.

During recent storms, a layer of fine sediment 1-2 inches deep was deposited in the culvert.

This sediment will have to be removed before the next rain.  Otherwise, it will fill the pool above the gravel dam, and/or pass through the pores in the gravel dam. 

If it's not cleaned out before the gravel dam is removed at the end of the project, then obviously it will flush to Lake Mendota in subsequent storms.

There's a significant amount of sediment here.  I made a rough estimate--the box culvert now contains from 1/5 to 2/5 of a dump truck of sediment.*

This error could have been avoided if the sides of the pit had been better protected, and if the clear water coming from the creek above had been channeled directly into the culvert (before it picked up sediment).

The bottom line:  Poor erosion control can result in costly delays and remedial work.

#     #     #
Who is responsible for this site

Design Engineer: Lisa Coleman, 266-4093, City Engineering,
Construction Engineer: John Fahrney, City Engineering,

Contractor: Rawson Contractors, Kenneth Servi, President,

Permit authority: Tim Troester, (608) 267-1995,

Erosion Control Permittee: Signed by Robert Phillips, delegated to John Fahrney, City Engineering,(608) 266-9091,

Grantor of permit for construction of ponds: DNR Water Management Specialist Cami Peterson, 608-275-3208. No mention was made in the permit of the need to deflect runoff from the ponds under construction.

Calculations: The culvert is 94' long and 12' wide.  The mud inside was estimated at 1-2" deep.  A dump truck contains 16 cubic yards.

Other articles on Rawson

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What it means to be cited on Contractor Report for violations

If your company is cited here for violations....
  • You could be sued, with penalties of $37,500 per violation per day.  Reports on this blog led to a citizen's suit against Speedway Sand and Gravel.  More
  • The detailed photo documentation we provide is there for all to see, including the courts.
  • Potential clients will find out.  If a client simply googles your company name, and we have covered you, our story will appear on page two of Google results.  This is how some new readers find our blog.
  • You will be inspected soon.  But no problem--the City is on your side.  They are being sued by citizens also.  Agencies like DNR are too overworked to inspect unless there is a complaint (from this blog).
  • Our reports provide the basis for stories in the press.  We don't actively seek press coverage, because that promotes posturing and hot air.  We'd prefer honest discussion and a search by all for a solution to the problem.  One news storyAnother.
  • The Alder for your area will find out.  We usually notify Alders when there's a violation in their district.   Several Alders read this blog often, and one is a "follower."
  • If you have a public relations firm, they will send you a big bill for following the negative publicity on our site.  The PR firm of one large contractor spent hours crawling over our site (17 return visits).  In the end, their advice will probably be: "Obey the law if you want to keep your green image."
  • City Engineering sent a letter to one contractor warning them they could be "decertified" after we discussed the company with City officials.
  • We are watching for falsified self-inspection reports.  One contractor reported the stormwater inlet filters had been inspected and cleaned, when the photos from a day or so later showed weeds growing in the same clogged inlet.  Falsified reports are fraud.
  • City officials have visited this blog at least 59 times (to date).
  • DNR officials have visited this blog.
  • People from 23 US states and 17 countries have visited this blog.  Your deeds are known across the world.
  • We average about 10 hits a day.  Sometimes up to a hundred.  Not large, but it's a local blog, and the readers are your clients, boss, inspectors, peers, and investors.  A few readers have spent hours on the blog.
  • Major violations get coverage in two blogs--this and Save Our Stream  (intended for citizens).  We may also notify a large list of people by email, and post factual unfavorable reviews of your company on other websites.
  • After a storm, we receive a flurry of hits.  Presumably, companies are checking to see if anyone noticed their shortcuts.  Likewise, inspectors may be looking for leads.
  • In the case of companies with repeated violations, we may attempt to influence the bidding outcome for future contracts. This may be hard with the City, but it's a distinct possibility for a private project like the Edgewater reconstruction.
  • If you repeat violations, we will follow you from job to job.  Example
  • A "green image" is becoming essential for every business.  We love to poke holes in green baloney.
We do notice, respect, and reward companies who do good work

We made positive comments about Krupp Construction, Miron Construction, and several firms working at the Target site.  If you take prompt remedial action and have few future violations, we will remove or reduce negative comments on this blog.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Speedway Sand & Gravel continues violations at a new site: Segoe Rd.

Construction sites with several risk factors deserve special attention to erosion control.  Risk factors are sites with...
  1. steep slopes
  2. proximity to a waterway or lake
  3. a lot of runoff entering from above.
The water main project on Segoe Rd is located over a large stormwater conduit to Lake Mendota via Willow Creek.   Segoe Rd. esentially follows a buried creek.  Located in a low point, much stormwater is funneled to this construction site from higher up on Segoe, and from side streets all along Segoe.  So it has two of the three risk factors.

Speedway Sand and Gravel (plus City engineers designing projects) continue to treat these risky sites with disinterest and neglect.

Speedway at work (Segoe & St. Croix, 9/9 11:11 am)

Given the risk factors, this site deserved speedy completion.  Yet progress has been slow.

So, during the heavy rains of 9/2 and 9/3, when it rained about an inch each day, it wasn't surprising that Segoe Rd flooded.

The most serious problem was the stormwater inlets located within the median of Segoe Rd.  Most of the median is slightly concave, to serve as a channel for stormwater on the surface.  And much of it was devoid of grass cover.  So when it rained, great quantities of sediment washed down Segoe and towards the 19 inlets on the median.

Amazingly, none of these inlets had filters, and most had inadequate rings of silt sock around them.  Several had no protection whatsoever--a complete lapse.  While 5 of the median inlets seemed well-enough protected by silt socks, socks on the other 14 failed.  Some of the inlets were so buried in detritus and mud that Sherlock had to dig to find the inlets.
Stormwater inlet on median--buried in sediment
Since there were no dams or silt socks across the median to slow the floodwaters, the sediment became progressively worse further downhill along Segoe.  Meandering channels were carved into the freshly seeded median, and much sediment was dumped into the street gutters, where it clogged nearly all of the street stormwater inlets.  Clogged inlets caused water and sediment to flow further downhill beyond the site.
By Sept. 7, none of the blocked inlets had been maintained, cleaned, or corrected.   Inspection and maintenance is required within 24 hours.

Inspection reports could not be found on the City website.

Additional faults

The streets were very dirty.  Residents were angry about the dust, having to keep their windows closed.  There was evidence of sweeping with a bobcat on 9/7, but the sweeping was spotty and ineffective.   Concrete wastewater, plus dust control chemicals had been spilled on the street. 

Piles of gravel and dirt had no silt socks around them.  A few gravel check dams were made of unwashed gravel and appeared ineffective. 

Wastewater from concrete was dumped in several places.  It's highly alkaline, and can kill everything in the soil nearby.  More.

Due to sloppy back fill of excavations on the terraces, plus the rain, holes developed along the edge of the sidewalk in about 5 places.  Residents were concerned about pedestrian safety, and so were filling the holes themselves.

The whole construction area had a seedy, neglected, and dirty appearance. 

Mixed reviews for basins as a control measure

This site seems to have relied partly on the numerous holes in the pavement--which could act as temporary retention basins, confining water and sediment.  These holes in the pavement were not part of the erosion control plan--so perhaps they were just a happy coincidence.  Nevertheless, they weren't sufficient due to the large amount of stormwater entering from beyond the site.  Hence many of them probably overflowed, limiting their effectiveness.

See photos from 9/6 and 9/7.

Photos of 19 median stormwater inlets.  Only 5 of 19 did not fail--that is, receive significant sediment.

Update: City officials responsible for this site

Apparently Madison Water Utility was responsible, since this was a water main replacement (plus resurfacing and stormwater inlet replacement).

Permit authority: Tim Troester
(608) 267-1995

Permittee: Madison Water Utility
Adam Wiederhoeft

Inspector: Harley Lemkuil  See reports

Speedway Staff responsible
Todd Timmerman (608) 575-1499
Josh Stieve (608) 836-1071

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Another sediment spill by Rawson at Old Middleton Rd

This site needed special attention to erosion control, because:
  • The site is steep.
  • It straddles a creek that coveys stormwater directly to Lake Mendota.
  • Considerable runoff enters the site from both ends of Old Middleton Rd.
Despite these obvious warning signs, the erosion control plan was mediocre and poorly implemented.

Ponds still filled

The unfinished sediment ponds remain partially filled, due to previous neglect in allowing them to fill while under construction.  The presence of water in the ponds is probably going to delay completion, and some damage has occurred.

Since my earlier comments on this, runoff from Old Middleton Rd into the ponds has been mostly blocked by a gravel dike.

Silt fences failed again, sediment spill into creek

Silt fences guarding both sides of the creek failed.

The first failure occurred because the stakes holding the fence were too small.  Where the fence failed the first time, larger stakes were added, but not all the stakes were upgraded.  So when another storm hit, the fence failed again where the smaller stakes remained.  The lesson--"stakes too small"--wasn't learned the first time.

The erosion control plan states: "Do not disturb existing channel between ponds."  Yet due to the failure of stilt fences on at least two occasions, two gravel dams were recently placed in the creek itself.  The fence itself hasn't been repaired, at least several days after the storm.

There's a delta of sediment in the creek where the south fence failed. 

Below the gravel dams in the creek, you can see small patches of sediment, showing the gravel dams in the creek didn't prevent sediment from moving downstream towards Lake Mendota.

The arrangement of gravel dam, rock dam, and silt fence on the south side of the creek was illogical and ineffective, allowing water to easily bypass and dump sediment into the creek.
The whole approach to erosion control at this site has been ineffective, constantly closing the barn door with gravel dams after the horse has escaped.

An opportunity missed on the south side of the project

An erosion control checklist should include: "Survey the site to determine if runoff entering the site can be diverted around the site.  If it can't be diverted, determine if it can be conveyed through the site in pipes or channels, without eroding or picking up sediment."

If water entering the site is clean, then it can be dumped beyond the site--even into lakes or streams--if it is kept clean while passing through the site.

There's clean runoff coming from this block above the start of construction, on the S approach of Old Middleton Rd.

Here's where the runoff from the block above enters the site... lots coming in.

This runoff could be diverted to the NE onto Capitol Av.   Or, it could be conveyed through the site in a plastic pipe, and dumped into the creek, since it would be clean.  This diversion would relieve some of the strain on the erosion control measures closer to the creek. 

At the very least, this entering runoff could have been diverted down the west side of Old Middleton Rd, where the pavement is still intact. 

Instead, the incoming runoff was allowed to run down the east side of Old Middleton Rd, where the pavement was ripped up.  Hence, much more erosion occurred.

Additional problems reveal a sloppy approach

 In three places, the creek (right) is not protected from disturbed areas by any fence or silt sock.

 The gravel dams were breached in several places by tracks, making them ineffective.

This pile of dirt, in the middle of the runoff flow on the hill, should have been protected with silt socks.

Runoff and sediment is moving around  some of the gravel dams on the hill.

The bottom line: Lots of dirty runoff, like this filling one of the ponds, got into the creek.

Who is responsible for these continuing problems:

Design Engineer: Lisa Coleman, 266-4093, City Engineering, . No mention of the need to deflect runoff was made in the erosion control plan.

Construction Engineer: John Fahrney, City Engineering,

Contractor: Rawson Contractors (Low bid was $1, 399, 029.85), Kenneth Servi, President,

Permit authority: Tim Troester, (608) 267-1995,

Erosion Control Permittee: Signed by Robert Phillips, delegated to John Fahrney, City Engineering,(608) 266-9091,

Inspector on 7/23 who missed last chance to deflect inflow: Stewart Mael, (608) 261-9695,

Grantor of permit for construction of ponds: DNR Water Management Specialist Cami Peterson, 608-275-3208. No mention was made in the permit of the need to deflect runoff from the ponds under construction.
#     #     #

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Course on Construction Site Erosion Control

"Learn techniques to establish Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) for your construction site, and eliminate problems before they cause higher costs and slowdowns for your project.
This practical seminar can help you and your project staff save time and money by avoiding erosion and sediment releases. You will learn about proper installation and maintenance of typical BMPs as well as proper documentation to help keep your project in compliance with local and state regulations.

This course is of benefit to inspectors, contractors, foremen, project managers, consultants, stormwater managers, and owners of construction site projects and related activities (grading, culvert replacements, utility trenching, etc.)"

Source, and more info...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Street sweeping--remarkably ineffective

Today as I walked along Caromar Dr, a Bobcat passed right next to me as it swept the street in front of the Sequoia Commons II construction site.

Street sweeping is required as far from the site as necessary, and by the end of the work day.  It's one of the six erosion control methods most frequently used in Madison.

I could see the sweeping was remarkably ineffective--there were tracks of dried mud still on the street where it had just passed.  I fixed my eyes on one large, dried clod as the Bobcat passed right next to me--the clod was still there after the Bobcat passed over it.

A 1996  EPA study also found street sweeping to be the least effective of the three methods studied for keeping muddy tracks from construction off streets

Besides failing to remove mud where sweeping occurs, the method has other shortcomings:
  • It creates dust, adding to air pollution
  • It simply spreads the dirt more widely around the street
  • Sweepers frequently miss the gutters--the most important area to sweep.  Any dirt there is washed directly to the lakes.
No contractor that relies on ineffective methods deserves a GREEN rating from this blog.

 I believe the City deserves the most responsibility for this failure, because they continue to rely on sweeping, rather than on more effective BMPs, such as tire washing at construction sites.

The Parking lot at Sequoia Commons, just minutes after having been swept by the Bobcat in the rear.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Violations by Ellis Stone Construction of Stevens Point

On the Ellis website: "Ellis is committed to Green building practices."  "Our team is well versed in sustainable design and construction...."  "We are a proud member of the U.S. Green Building Council."

But at an out-of-the-way site, where inspection is unlikely, the story is different.

At Wildcat Mountain State Park, a new entrance station is under construction by Ellis Stone Construction of Stevens Point.

The fence failed in about four places, spilling much sediment down steep slopes in two directions. The sediment fence was poorly designed--one fence cannot handle this large and steep disturbed area.

In nearby Viroqua, rain of 1.06 inches was recorded on 7/28; 0.36 inches on 7/24; and 1.84 inches on 7/22.   The fence failure probably occurred during the big storm on 7/22.  If this is true, then the fence has gone at least 11 days without repair (7/22-8/2).  And that's assuming Ellis plans to repair it when work resumes on Monday, 8/2.

Poor erosion control elsewhere on site led to a large gully forming in the drive approaching the new building, dumping gravel down a steep slope towards the Kickapoo River.  Likewise, this has gone unrepaired for many days, through several subsequent rains.

Breach in silt fence--unrepaired long enough for new grass to grow.

It's bad enough that poor design allowed the erosion control measures to fail in the first place, harming a State Park.  But the failure to follow up and fix the problems within 24 hours represents serious negligence.

See all the photos here.

Edgewater Hotel reconstruction--a site with special challenges

A new tower for the Edgewater Hotel will rise on the steep, wooded site to the right.

The contractor chosen for the Edgewater Hotel reconstruction must be prepared for some significan erosion-control challenges.  The site has a number of risk factors for a major sediment spill:
  • Close to the lake
  • Steep slopes
  • Caving bank above the shore
  • Cramped site
In addition, the project is controversial and highly visible.  The contractor will either gain a reputation for being GREEN, or for GUNK in the Lake.

Ordinary erosion control measures won't cut the mustard.  The anemic, ordinary methods of erosion control required by Madison didn't begin to protect Lake Wingra from the June 21 storm that ravaged the Edgewood Av project.  That storm was only 1.75 inches.

The Edgewater project has to be prepared for a major storm, like the one that recently pummelled Milwaukee with six inches of rain in a few hours.  In the 1990s, a storm of 7-11 inches flooded Madison and Baraboo.

The new tower will rise on the wooded area to the left.

One challenge is the caving bank of soil, 20-30 feet high, ready to collapse into the lake.  The previous owner should have taken care of this.  Nevertheless, the contractor chosen for this site WILL OWN THIS PROBLEM.

Caving bank by shore, 20+ ft high.  Only roots prevent collapse.

The Contractor Report will be watching--and hold this project to higher standards.

Problems continue at Rawson site on W. Gillman St

As of August 1, the gravel pad at on West Gillman had been moved to the center of the street (outside the Tri-North site) and was now sufficiently long. However, before trucks can get to the pad, they have to traverse a long stretch of dirty street from Henry St, where there are piles of disturbed soil. So the pad still does not seem to be fully functional.

Intersection of Henry & Gillman is still very dirty, and there is no inlet filter at Henry & Gormam preventing this dirt from washing to the lake.

While the Gillman-State St intersection seemed to be cleaner than before, the Gillman-Henry St intersection remained very dirty. An added problem was that, even though Gillman St was marked "closed," public vehicle traffic was moving through it, tracking dirt out.

A clear violation was the new stormwater inlet at the intersection of Gillman and Henry: The inlet was filled with sediment from recent storms, but had no filter.

Towards the upper end of the Gillman St construction area, there was much disturbed soil, and several piles of soil, with no silt socks or other containment measures.

The only measures preventing a major sediment spill from this site
  • A shallow berm (the present gavel pad)
  • Gravel dams in the gutters at the lower end of the street
  • An excavated area at the end of the gutters , lower end (to serve as a small basin)
While Contractor Report notes that these measures are probably sufficient for the current standard (a two-year storm), we believe these would be easily overwhelmed with a larger storm, such as the 6" storm that recently occurred in Milwaukee. We believe erosion control measures in Madison should prepare for larger storms.

More photos from 8/1.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gravel tracking pads are important for your health

I've found that nearly all gravel tracking pads in Madison are out of compliance.  They are almost universally too short, and often they are so dirty as to be useless.  Happy exceptions are--one of two pads at the Target site are in compliance, and Sequoia Phase II is in compliance.

Today I found a 1996 EPA study about the effectiveness of measures to prevent tracking of mud.  For preventing the trackout of sediment, gravel pads were found to be the most effective, followed by wood-chip mulch (produced from waste on-site), with sweeping the least effective. 

Walking on a street just swept by a Bobcat, you can easily see how ineffective it is--the dirt is just spread about kind of evenly.  Nevertheless, we should enforce sweeping when the day is done, because it serves as a backup to the gravel pads.  The gutters below check dams should be thoroughly swept with hand brooms, since what's in the gutters goes directly to the lakes when it rains.

The muddy tracks go for miles, although the quantity drops off rapidly with distance.  I believe the most effective kind of sweeping would be intensive sweeping, with water, close to the site.  Of course, details have to be adapted to each site.

But here's the big surprise (for me) from this study.  Tiny particles of dust are hazardous to health, because they can penetrate deeply into lungs, carrying other toxins which adhere to them.  When dirt lies on the roads, traffic moves over it, grinding it down to smaller particles, then wafting it into the air.

The study shows that construction site tracking of mud is a significant contributor to this load of dirt on our streets.  Who would have thought that some of that mud on tires--would wind up in our lungs?  First it's second-hand smoke.  Now, it's second-hand mud in our lungs!

Yesterday, I was downtown on State Street, photographing the Rawson and Tri-North sites.  The whole area within several blocks of these sites was more dirty than usual, and it was easy to see dirt was escaping from the sites largely on tires--day in and day out.

These two companies, through their non-compliance--are not just being sloppy neighbors to nearby businesses.   They are not just harming the lakes.  They are also harming the health of the people who work and shop downtown.

Entrance to the Rawson and Tri-North sites from State St, 7/27.

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Related news item from New York Times: "The quality of air in Chinese cities is increasingly tainted by coal-burning power plants, grit from construction sites and exhaust from millions of new cars squeezing onto crowded roads, according to a government study issued this week."

The Badger on campus with no bark and no bite

We notice that many construction sites on and around the UW campus in Madison are out of compliance with construction site erosion control.  Typically, gravel pads are too short, stormwater inlet filters unmaintained, and muddy tracks on the streets are not cleaned up.

Such negligence has resulted in muddy plumes into Lake Mendota, at Lake Street and at Willow Creek, after rains.

Lake Mendota at Lake St after rain, 7/7.

 Convoluted responsibilities may be part of the problem
  • Typically, the City is the Permit Authority.
  • But they don't have or exercise authority at the University (So why are they listed as the "permit authority" on the permits?)
  • The state Department of Administration therefore oversees the compliance. 
  • But they passed or delegated this to the DNR.
  • Meanwhile, some of the contractors like Findorff are inspecting themselves, with poor results.
Who is responsible--what I've found out for some of these cases: