Friday, November 22, 2013

A tar sands mine in Madison ??

Madison has its own version of the tar sands--an asphalt and concrete recycling operation near the corner of the Beltline and Verona Rd.  Next door is a staging area for the stormsewer work going on along the beltline.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Clean Clear Waters Challenge Announced for Local Builders

First Clean Clear Waters certified home...
Highlights advanced erosion control and storm water management practices
to help clean our waters.

 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 5, 2013
 1008 Edgehill Drive, Village of Shorewood Hills

MADISON – A bold new program will now enable local building projects to obtain a “Clean Clear Waters” designation by complying with advanced erosion control practices.   The program will officially be unveiled at the first Clean Clear Waters certified home.  Located in the Village of Shorewood Hills, the home captures 100% of rooftop run-off with rainwater recovery and native landscaping features and used advanced erosion control and storm water management practices during construction.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Construction site threatens Lake Wingra

The construction site for apartments, at the corner of Arbor Dr. and Knickerbocker St., has been consistently poor in its erosion control. It's just a stones throw from Lake Wingra.

On Oct. 26...

  • There was concrete slurry leaking directly into a stormwater inlet.
  • The street had not been swept--fine dust was blowing about.
  • Stormwater inlets were dirty and not maintained.
  • One stormwater inlet next to the construction entrance had no visible protection.
  • Construction entrances were not adequate.

More photos.
This site is sucking the blood of our lake !

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

19 % of phosphorus from construction--source of the data

"Studies show that 19% of the phosphorus in our lakes comes from construction site erosion."

We've been asked for the source of this data...

The figures below are for Lake Mendota.

"Inventory and modeling produced estimates of sediment and phosphorus loadings to the lake (see Table 1). Several surprising findings emerged from the planning work. The first was that although less than 1 percent of the land area was undergoing development, models suggested that portion of land accounted for almost one quarter of the sediment loading and one fifth of the phosphorus loading to the lake (WDNR 2000)." Source

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The importance of good tracking pads

Below: Trackout from just 1 vehicle, 1 trip, at a construction site.

Muddy tracks aren't a question of appearance--often they are nearly invisible.

Muddy tracks you can see are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you can see any tracks at all, then you can bet there are tons of mud washing into our lakes from this construction site (see calculations below).  

When contractors sweep at all, it's usually just around the construction entrance.  But that's not enough--because the bulk of the mud is dropped beyond the sweeping distance.

Upper left: Tracks by north entrance about noon. Click on photo to enlarge.

Upper right: Same area at quitting time.  Different tracks indicate there was an earlier sweeping, but not late enough to remove all the tracks before another rainstorm after work.

Bottom left: Faint tracks & small clods on Gately Ter, 4 blocks away.

Nine tons of sediment from Sequoia Commons construction

The calculations below are guesses, needing much refinement.  The purpose is simply to show how mud on tires can really add up.

Each tire (right) easily carries 10 pounds of mud

  • Assume construction takes 1 year, 5 days a week for 52 weeks.  Assume that only half of those days have mud on-site (rain is less frequent--but mud persists for a while).  This gives 130 days a year when mud might be tracked off-site.
  • Assume each day, on average, 10 visits of vehicles with large wheels, 6 wheels per vehicle (concrete tucks have more tires).  Assume each wheel can track 2 lbs of mud off-site.  Total, 12 lbs mud per visit or 120 lbs per day.
  • Assume each day 20 visits by smaller vehicles like pickup trucks, with 4 wheels.  Each vehicle tracks a total of 1 lb mud off site.  Total, 20 lbs per day.
The total mud tracked per day is 140 lbs X 130 days, for a grand total of over 18,000 lbs/year, or 9 tons.

How can so much mud be tracked out, when you can barely see the tracks?  Simple--it's miles before all the mud drops off the tires.  It's spread so thinly across the roads you can barely see it.  But it still winds up in the lake.  After a rain storm in June, I followed one muddy track for six miles.

Yahara Materials--Every truck trip has two polluting ends.

Double trouble--the other end of the trip

The traffic from s construction site is visiting another location where muddy tracks can occur.

For example gravel comes from Yahara Materials, the Meinholz Quarry #7.  This quarry has multiple violations of erosion control laws, including muddy tracks, no gravel tracking pad, and ineffective sediment fences.  So in effect, you can multiply the 9 tons above by 2--to account for the sediment at each end of a vehicle trip.

What's really needed is a system of high-pressure water sprays to clean wheels before trucks leave the site.

Cleaning tires--
it's not rocket science.

My mother taught me to wipe my feet before I came in the house.  So why can't trucks leaving construction sites wipe their feet before they track muddy footprints into the lakes?

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

When swimming, keep Ghidorzi Companies in mind

Here are photos of Bernie's Beach on Monona Bay, and along the shore a bit east--taken on June 7.

Weeds, stimulated by phosphorus.... thanks to Ghidorzi Companies pollution.

The light circles are fish nests.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pollution into Monona Bay, weeds out

Here's a stunning example of the harmful effects of construction site erosion.

Construction causes 19% of the phosphorus in our lakes.  Phosphorus fertilizes weeds in the lake.

Gambling with our lakes.  Madison's romantic riverboat...
Weed cutting in Monona Bay, July 23, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Erosion control plan for the Wingra Clinic, 1102 S. Park St.

Because Contractor Report has documented 13 sediment spills into Monona Bay, plus one extreme dust incident, it's beyond question that either the plan below, and/or its implementation, were flawed. But Ghidorzi and the City signed on to this plan, so knowing the plan is where any investigation starts.  Later, we plan to post a critique of this plan, plus detailed analysis of how it was carried out.

Wingra Clinic--Grading, Erosion Control, and Landscaping Plans C 2.0
By Engineer Wade P. Wyse 
Obtained from DNR via a Freedom of Information Request

"General notes" (relevant parts)

6. All building and waste materials shall be properly handled and disposed of offsite to prevent runoff of material into waters of the State.

"Construction Site Erosion Control Requirements"
I have emphasized in blue the items easiest to observe from outside the site
  1. All erosion and sediment control practices shall be designed and implemented in accordance with the current department of natural resources erosion and sediment control technical standards which are available at
  2. Install erosion control measures prior to any site work, including grading or disturbance of existing surface materials as shown on plan.  Modifications to sediment  control design may be conducted to meet unforeseen field conditions if modifications conform to WDNR technical standards.
  3. Inspections and maintenance of all erosion control measures shall be routine (once per week minimum) to ensure proper function of erosion control at all times.  Erosion control measures are to be in working order at the end of each work day.
  4. Inspect erosion control measures after each ½’ or greater rainfall.  Repair any damage observed during the inspection.
  5. Erosion control measures shall be removed only after site construction is complete with all soil surfaces having an established vegetative cover.
  6. Install a tracking pad 50’ long and no less than 12” thick by use of 3” clear stone.  Tracking pads are to be maintained by the contractor in a condition which will prevent the tracking of mud or dry sediment onto the adjacent public streets after each working day or more frequently as required by the city of Madison.
  7. Install erosion controls on the downstream side of stockpiles.
  8. Install check dams within drainage ditches and in front of silt fencing in any low area all in accordance with WDNR technical standards.
  9. Erosion control for utility construction (Storm sewer, sanitary sewer, water main, ETC.): A. Place excavated trench material on the high side of the trench.  B. Backfill, compact, and stabilize the trench immediately after pipe construction.  C. Discharge trench water into a sedimentation basin or filtering tank in accordance with the dewatering technical standard No. 1061 prior to release into the storm sewer, receiving stream, or drainage ditch.
  10. Install type D inlet protection around all storm sewer inlets and catch basins that may receive runoff from areas under construction.  Refer to WISDOT FDM for respective details.
  11. Apply anionic polymer to disturbed areas if erosion becomes problematic.
  12. Dust shall be controlled on the site per WDNR storm water management Technical Standard 1068 if necessary.
  13. Additional erosion control measures as requested by state inspectors, local inspectors, and/or engineer shall be installed within 24 hours of request.
  14. All slopes exceeding 4:1 (25%) shall be stabilized with Class I, Type B erosion matting and drainage swales shall be stabilized with a Class II, Type B erosion matting, or application of a WDOT approved polymer soil stabilization treatment or a combination thereof, as required.  Contractor shall provide product specifications to project engineer for approval. 
  15. Contractor/owner shall file a notice of termination upon vegetative stabilization and/or property sale in accordance with WDNR and WDCOMM requirements.
  16. Dewatering, if applicable, shall be conducted per WDNR storm water management technical standard 1061.
"Grading and Seeding Notes"

1. All disturbed areas shall be seeded and mulched immediately following grading activities.  Seed mix to be in accordance with landscape plan.

Details shown on the engineering drawing (in my words)
  • The silt fence completely surrounds the site, except at the NE corner, from Park St. to the construction entrance on Midland St.
  • Three construction entrances are shown: One on Park St. (not used, to our knowledge), one on Midland St., and one on Fish Hatchery Rd.  All refer to the standard specs for size and maintenance (item 6). 
  • The N tip of the triangle, at the junction of Fish Hatchery and Park, is to be left undisturbed.
  • Nowhere on the plan did I see any statement that it was permissible to replace sediment fence with silt socks. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Construction dust is a proven health hazard for Madison

"Long term exposure to air pollution is linked to heart attacks and strokes because it speeds up hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis," according to new research by University of Michigan scientists. source

"The vessels of people exposed to higher levels... of fine particulate air pollution thickened faster than others living in the same metropolitan area."

“Linking these findings with other results from the same population suggests that persons living in a more polluted part of town may have a two percent higher risk of stroke as compared to people in a less polluted part of the same metropolitan area."

Findorff Construction next to Kohl Center

Madison--24th most polluted

And Madison has been ranked by the American Lung Association as the 24th most polluted city, for short-term particulate pollution--essentially dust and smoke.  This is the same kind of pollution--known as PM 2.5--that was studied by the Michigan doctors.

The many construction sites around town are major contributors to dust in our air.  The particles are blown directly off construction sites on windy days.  High winds during spring shouldn't surprise construction managers.

University Crossing construction site

Much of the dust also comes from mud tracked onto streets by tires of trucks. The mud is spread for miles over the streets--then it's lofted into the air by passing vehicles.

Mud tracked out of Ghidorzi site, Dec. 19, 2012.

The mud also washes to the lakes when it rains, causing algae blooms.  Studies show construction sites contribute 19% of the phosphorus to Madison's lakes.

L. Mendota after storm, about 1968, UW Engineering photo

In winter, you can see the fallout of dust onto the ice of Lake Mendota.

This layer of dust accumulated within a few weeks, soon after the ice formed.

A case study

One recent example is the construction site at the corner of South Park Street and Fish Hatchery Rd, managed by Ghidorzi Companies.  
On April 26, dust from Ghidorzi was so thick that it obscured traffic at the busy intersection, according to resident Steve Vanko.

Throughout the demolition and construction which began last fall, the site has contained large piles of soil and debris, some piles as tall as two stories.  Last summer, Styrofoam insulation blew all over the neighborhood and into Monona Bay, where it can still be found.

The piles have not been protected by tarps, and were screened by only one short fence, often tattered.  Dust suppression with water may have occurred briefly, but was not continued.   Re-vegetation of the large bare area has been repeatedly postponed. 

A hazard for nearby hospitals

On April 26, the dust was blowing towards St. Mary's and Meriter hospitals, located nearby.  Weather records show strong winds often blow from the site towards the two hospitals.  Video of dust blowing towards hospitals.

Patients weakened by illness are more susceptible to harmful effects of air pollution   The American Lung Association estimates that tens of thousands of people in Madison are especially sensitive to air pollution.

It's ironic that the building under construction will house...

  • the Wingra Family Medical Center (Access Community Health Center), and
  • Three UW Health clinics.
Meningitis outbreak kills 23

A national outbreak of this brain infection was traced to contaminated injections, manufactured by a pharmacy in Framingham, Massachusetts.  The infection was caused by a fungus... but how did the fungus get into the injections?

"At least one of the vials confiscated by inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration had so much 'foreign matter' floating in it that it could be seen with the naked eye."  Source

The filters outside the clean rooms at the pharmacy were clogged with dirt.  And located on the same property as the pharmacy was a recycling facility, where what looks like furniture and construction materials were broken up with heavy equipment.  Source  

Investigators were looking into the contributing role played by environmental conditions, caused by the recycling operation.  But it was clear that sloppy procedures at the pharmacy were the chief cause.

That recycling operation was similar to what happened when Ghidorzi demolished and recycled the Bancroft Dairy (below), leaving the piles of debris to blow about, close to two hospitals and many homes.

One resident near Ghidorzi complained that their air conditioner had burned out, due to dust from construction.  Let's hope the hospitals have inspected their air conditioning filters, to make sure they aren't clogged with dirt from the Ghidorzi site.  

Lessons from the meningitis outbreak...

  • Environmental conditions, leading to excessive dust, can play a role in disease outbreaks.  
  • And incomplete inspections--as at the pharmacy--can also play a role.  Most of the erosion control inspections at the Madison site are done by Ghidorzi staff, or their subcontractors.
Development in Madison builds our city.  Construction provides jobs.  But with proper management and inspection, construction doesn't have to be dirty, or harm our health.

Inspection procedures for erosion control need to be improved.  Madison relies on self-inspection by contractors.  When they inspect themselves,  they always get A+.

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Related photos and stories about Madison...

Giant, unprotected soil pile at Ghidorzi site, 11/12/12

How Ghidorzi could have covered soil piles. 
Construction can be clean, if properly regulated.

Brown air over Madison--ranks 24th most polluted city for dust

Windblown dust over L. Mendota obscures the horizon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Findorff Construction spreads litter on L. Mendota

On Sunday March 10, Findorff was again unprepared for rain and thaw.  The rain amounted to .93 inches, augmented by melting snow.

The area furthest from the lake had been recently excavated, but no erosion controls were visible along the fence.

Out on the ice of Lake Mendota, Findorff had been dumping snow excavated from the construction site.  The dumping of snow was intentional--it was in large piles dropped by a power shovel.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pollution of Monona Bay by Ghidorzi Companies

Steve Vanko and I believe these muddy plumes were caused by construction of the Wingra Clinic by the Ghidorzi Companies.  This construction site is only 1-3 blocks directly upstream on the stormsewer system.  In all cases, we have photographs of the construction site proving deficiencies in erosion control, and showing muddy water exiting the construction site.

#1. July 18, 2012. 1.43 inches

There were two big storms, one during early morning, and the other in late afternoon.  A large amount of plastic insulation was flushed to the bay.

This photo from the morning, shows the 10-15% that remained, after a city Vactor truck tried to suck up the debris.

At about 8:19 pm, the blue storm pipe across the street from Steve's house was dumping mud into the bay.  More photos.

Inaccurate reports by Findorff at the Edgewater reconstruction

Many inspections by a variety of companies, filed on the PermiTrack system run by the City of Madison for self-inspections, are late, missing, inaccurate, or poorly documented.

These errors are so widespread--as to undermine any confidence by citizens that the self-inspection system is working.

Here are a few examples.  Individually they may be small, but together they fostered an attitude of neglect--that led to a sediment spill.

On January 29, there was hard rain, totaling 1.84 inches, with a maximum temperature of 54 F. While unusual, this storm had a precedent.  Anyone planning for this site could see that on Dec. 30, 1884, it had rained 1.62 inches.

Erosion control at the Edgewater reconstruction failed, and sediment was spilled to Lake Mendota.  Photos