Drive past an average construction site (even a small residential addition) after a summer rain, and the street is usually coated with mud. Gooey, sticky, dirty stuff, the mud that runs off job sites and flows into storm sewers wreaks havoc on the quality of streams, rivers, and other waterways. But beyond the dire environmental consequences of job-site runoff, it’s also rude to mire your neighbors in mud. Plus, there’s the matter of steep fines.
It’s the law
Although most municipal ordinances include punitive measures for noncompliance, all the building officials I spoke with in my research focus on prevention through builder education and support rather than coercion. But they take the job seriously enough to prosecute those who don’t cooperate. Penalties for job-site pollution range from stop-work notices to thousand-dollar-a-day fines and even criminal prosecution.
“It’s a question of influencing the construction culture,” says Terry Ullsperger, a watershed-management inspector for Lincoln, Neb., who describes himself as someone who “has been on both sides of the silt fence.” Ullsperger likens the cultural conversion effort to the famous 1960s “Don’t Be a Litterbug” campaign, which made it unthinkable to toss trash from a car window. “Builders are slowly realizing a clean job site is just good building practice,” says Ullsperger.
Similarly, Janice Lopitz of the Keep It Clean partnership in Boulder, Colo., believes that those who would never wash a paintbrush in a stream bed may not realize they are doing the same thing when rinsing paint from their brushes at the curb. When you wash on the curb, the paint enters a storm-water inlet and heads straight to the nearest stream, lake, or river. “Whatever hits the street is as…