Front-End Support for Your Regulatory Program

April 3, 2000
It would be odd to stumble upon someone who disagrees that educating our youth is one of the cornerstones of a bright future. Think about the reasons: Knowledge is power; information and understanding lead to positive outcomes; awareness and comprehension prevent problems before they happen. Why discontinue the process when the tassel is flipped to the other side of the graduation cap? Those of us in the 9-to-5 (at least) world can reap the same benefits. Although some may be reluctant to continue formal learning into adulthood, additional training clearly enhances job performance, resulting in more personal and professional rewards.The erosion and sediment control and stormwater management fields are constantly evolving. New and superior products, practices, and techniques are showing up at an alarming rate, making it difficult to keep up with the latest. Although training and education are widely recognized as a component of agencies’ environmental strategies, they are often viewed as outliers to programs that rely solely on laws and regulations. EPA has recognized this fact and included education and outreach as one of the six minimum measures that must be implemented in all National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II municipal separate storm sewer programs. Since 1991, the Sediment and Stormwater Program of Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has required training for every individual who wishes to call the shots on construction sites. Delaware’s 1990 Sediment and Stormwater Law requires any person engaging in land-disturbing activities to submit a sediment and stormwater plan, obtain approval from the authorized agency, and strictly adhere to the plan during construction. Right off the bat, the land-disturbance threshold was set at 5,000 square feet with few exemptions (agricultural land management activities being the most common). In recognition of the complexities of complying with a new set of regulations, the law also authorized DNREC to develop “criteria regarding attendance and completion of departmental sponsored or approved training courses in sediment and stormwater control that will be required of certified construction reviewers and responsible personnel.” This authority was taken to heart by forward-thinking department staff during the development of the regulations, and a mandatory training and education strategy was fashioned. The focal point of our efforts is the certification program. This component of our training and education program consists of two courses that are required of individuals who wish to perform construction-related activities in the state of Delaware. They are (1) the Contractor’s Training Course and (2) the Certified Construction Reviewer’s Course.The Contractor’s Training CourseThe Contractor’s Training Course is required of all “responsible personnel,” defined as any foreman or superintendent who is in charge of onsite clearing and land-disturbing activities for sediment and stormwater control associated with a construction project.Attending an intensive four-hour class certifies an individual to be in charge of the sediment and stormwater control aspects of construction activities in Delaware. In the early 1990s, a slide show presentation along with a detailed handout were developed, and DNREC personnel took the show on the road to train as many individuals as possible to get the program off the ground. Somewhat reluctantly, hundreds of individuals were certified in the first couple of years. By the mid- to late 1990s, the number was over 1,000, and those in the construction industry were contacting the Sediment and Stormwater Program office to get into the class. In the last year, the course has been updated for a more tech-savvy audience and now consists of a PowerPoint presentation with embedded videos and a workbook that includes not only the presentations, but also additional information in a format that can be referenced in the field for technical assistance and problem resolution. Proper installation and maintenance of water-quality best management practices (BMPs) is the meat of the program. However, it is important to present background material including state regulations, reading a set of plans, and basic environmental principles related to stormwater runoff and erosion. The most recent products and practices have been integrated into the course material, and the presentation can be easily revised as new information comes along. The program is broken into the following nine sessions:Introduction/Law and RegulationsEnvironmental and Economic Impacts of Soil Erosion and SedimentationPrinciples of Erosion and SedimentationErosion and Sediment Control PracticesVegetative StabilizationPrinciples of Stormwater RunoffStormwater Management BMPsConstruction Site Pollution PreventionSediment and Stormwater Plans and InspectionsAs students enter the classroom, a handout containing a series of questions about erosion and sedimentation and stormwater management techniques is distributed. We ask them to think about the answers and discuss their thoughts with classmates. Questions and dialogue are encouraged, although the time frame is tight for the half-day course. To keep the sessions upbeat and interactive, product samples are displayed and volunteers are solicited for demonstrations such as how to join adjacent sections of silt fence. At the conclusion of the course, presenters ask the attendees to revisit the handout questions in an informal, conversational manner. This typically results in a dialogue that accomplishes several things. First, it serves as a refresher for the class and helps drive home several key points, such as the importance of following the sequence of construction and regularly maintaining BMPs. As trainers, we are also able to determine if we have done a good job of presenting the material and we get one last stab at clarifying important concepts for the students. Attendees fill out and turn in an application for certification at the end of the session. In the days following the course, certification cards are sent to each participant. Because the course content has been significantly revised during the recent program upgrade, it is our intention to re-certify everyone who previously attended the course, starting with the first group to be certified in the early days of the program. Because the training of responsible personnel is mandatory, authorized inspectors in Delaware routinely ask for proof of this certification during the pre-construction meeting, and again during site inspections. If no one on a particular project can produce proof of certification, the site can be shut down until the project owner can bring in a trained foreman or superintendent.The Certified Construction Reviewer’s CourseThe next level of training, the Certified Construction Reviewer’s (CCR) Course, has an entirely different purpose. It is an intensive, three-day classroom exercise in stormwater management and erosion and sediment control designed to train individuals to perform construction inspections for compliance with Delaware’s sediment and stormwater regulations. Passing the course certifies students–including privately employed individuals–to perform inspections. Sound confusing? The fact is, DNREC and our sister agencies have relatively few inspectors, given the number of active construction sites around the state. Trained CCRs provide us with additional sets of eyes in the field to ensure compliance. Making the program run smoothly requires a lot of work. A specific policy is in place that dictates the implementation of the CCR program, including the responsibilities of these private inspectors. For example, a CCR is required for all non-residential construction sites as well as many of our larger residential projects in the state. Upon approval of a sediment and stormwater plan for commercial construction, the owner of the site is informed that he or she is required to hire a CCR to inspect the site on a weekly basis. The CCR is obligated to attend the pre-construction meeting and submit weekly reports to DNREC or the local agency responsible for inspections. The most critical phase of a project, pond construction, requires extra effort from the CCR. He or she needs to be on-site from outfall pipe installation through embankment construction and final stabilization. A pond construction checklist developed by DNREC must then be submitted along with the inspection report. Developers, builders, and contractors frequently put employees through the CCR course so they have someone on staff to act as a CCR on their projects. Given this fact, you may be wondering to yourself where the checks and balances are. Several layers of oversight and quality control exist. First, each report must be signed by an engineer licensed in the state of Delaware. For obvious reasons this responsibility is taken very seriously. The regulatory agency then reviews the reports and inspects the site monthly to check their accuracy. If problems persist with a CCR, de-certification is an option. This program accomplishes more than just regular site inspections. It provides additional training to those already in the field, enhancing the overall effectiveness of Delaware’s Sediment and Stormwater Program. Some folks in the construction industry take the course strictly for informational purposes, with no intention of ever becoming a CCR on a construction site. That alone increases compliance with our regulations. The program has also provided an economic stimulus in the form of an extra source of income for local firms wishing to employ CCRs. The course itself is typically held on the first three Thursdays in March, although demand sometimes dictates that a second program be held during the year. Session topics include hydrology, hydraulics, soils, vegetative establishment, construction practices, new products, pond construction, erosion and sediment controls, plan interpretation, inspections, enforcement, and maintenance. Each attendee receives a manual, which is broken down by topic and includes a copy of the presentation for that session, as well as other pertinent material. Recognized experts in the sediment and stormwater fields are invited as guest speakers. DNREC staff teach the majority of the sessions, so the students appreciate some variety in the presentations as well as perspectives from other programs around the country. To keep the sessions lively, questions are encouraged, film clips are inserted into the presentations, product samples are displayed, and volunteers are solicited for demonstrations. Instructors give the volunteers prizes (hats, pens, carry bags, etc.) to encourage participation. A written, take-home examination is handed to each student at the end of day three, with a due date that is usually about two weeks from the end of the course. The exam is open book and consists of a balance of multiple-choice and essay questions that lay out a real-world scenario and ask the CCR what he or she would do in this situation. In addition to the test questions, we show the class a series of slides from an active construction site and ask them to prepare an inspection report (worth 10 points on the exam) and send it back to us with the completed test. A score of 70 is necessary to pass the course. Certification is valid for a period of five years, after which the CCR must attend a one-day recertification course, typically held the week following the standard course.Periodically, the course is extended to include a product exposition. We invite manufacturers and distributors to help our future CCRs become familiar with some of the new erosion, sediment, and stormwater management controls on the market. The response from students is overwhelmingly positive. It gets them out of a classroom setting and helps support some of the concepts we’ve been teaching. The industry representatives have also indicated that it was worth their time to set up a booth and talk to the contractors, land developers, builders, government officials, and consultants that take the course. In the weeks after the course, a day of field training is offered in each region of the state. Several construction sites are visited, representing a variety of land uses and sediment control or stormwater management techniques. Sites are also selected based on their stage of construction at the time of our visit. We attempt to choose sites that range from the initial perimeter control installation phase, to active home building sites, to those where the sediment basin is being converted to a permanent stormwater management facility. The informal atmosphere results in a lot of questions, as well as some good-natured ribbing, on the bus ride between construction sites. Attendance on the field trips is voluntary, and on average only about one-third of the students sign up–even though lunch is provided.This unique application of private resources to accomplish what has always been perceived to be a function of government has begun to show significant results. Although there have been some bumps in the road, the CCRs have generally provided our program with the frequency and accuracy of inspections that are necessary to ensure effective sediment and stormwater management. We rely heavily on comments from attendees over the years to revise both courses so that they meet the needs of our students while continuing to accomplish the goals of DNREC’s Sediment and Stormwater Program. Each attendee completes and turns in an evaluation form at the end of each course. Their suggestions have led to many revisions and additions to the programs, such as the field trips, product expositions, and even some of the curricula. To date, both courses have resulted in certification of more than 4,000 individuals from more than 600 companies. Evaluations of the program through 1996 demonstrated that 96% of those completing the course would recommend it, and 86% wished to continue the training. Recent surveys indicate that this remains the general consensus.Program Initiative TrainingThe frequency with which new stormwater management and erosion and sediment control techniques become available necessitates DNREC’s Program Initiative Training. Workshops and training sessions are held to pass along the specifics of new initiatives and technologies. It is well documented that the concept of low-impact development continues to gain acceptance as time goes on. In light of this shift away from more structural stormwater controls, our regulations, technical guides, modeling techniques, and vegetative stabilization standards are being revised. Without training the regulated community, implementing these initiatives would be difficult at best. The Sediment and Stormwater Program has held a number of training workshops recently for consultants and contractors as well as regulatory agency representatives to provide the information necessary to make this transition more palatable.The same training concept holds true for field implementation, as evidenced by a recent event we organized in conjunction with a firm that specializes in filtering stormwater runoff during dewatering operations. Improper dewatering is the cause of a significant percentage of the violations issued for construction activities in Delaware. This field demonstration allowed attendees to see innovative methods for proper filtering, increasing the likelihood that these techniques will be used on construction sites in the state. The company displaying its wares has been more active in the state since the demonstration.Educating the General Public
Many events take place during the year that provide us with a built-in audience consisting of a good cross section of the citizens of Delaware. The Sediment and Stormwater Program staff take advantage of this by participating in the state fair, the annual Water Festival, school programs, and the Envirothon, among other events. We also regularly contribute to homeowners’ association meetings and field tours sponsored by state and municipal entities. Our efforts help us attain critical public support. An interactive display was at the center of last year’s state fair participation. A computer game with a series of water-quality-related questions patterned after the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire television program was a big hit. The more questions answered correctly, the better the prize. The questions were crafted to touch on issues that apply to the typical homeowner, serving as simple tips citizens can follow to help improve water quality. DNREC’s participation in Delaware’s Envirothon and Water Festival gives us the opportunity to spend time with kids from second grade through high school at events where the focus is on environmental issues. Both of these events are outdoor, interactive affairs involving direct contact with soil, water, plants, and wildlife, leading to a level of appreciation that is difficult to achieve through classroom learning. Spending time with the students between stations in an informal, conversational setting has proven to be productive and entertaining for the children.Residential landowners are responsible for thousands of acres of land in Delaware, directly affecting water-quality and -quantity issues. Their education in the proper use and maintenance of privately owned and common ground has become a priority. The Sediment and Stormwater Program recently received grant funding to meet with and train homeowners’ associations in open space and stormwater management facility care and maintenance. In addition, a portion of the money was set aside to implement field projects in selected communities. Workshops were held, information distributed, and most importantly, field days organized to teach and ingrain proper land management techniques in the minds of these stewards. One community, for example, was saddled with a large area of open space that was exclusively planted with lawn grasses that needed frequent and expensive mowing. In addition, its stormwater detention basin was holding more water than it was designed for, but not enough to become a wetpond. The implementation portion of the grant money was used to plant native trees and shrubs in the open space, maintaining a trail for use by the residents. Carefully selected native tree species were planted in the basin with the intention of increasing evapotranspiration to dry the pond sufficiently to reduce problems caused by shallow ponding. Wildlife habitat was also considered during the species selection process. A field day was held during which a bridge was constructed over a swale along the trail, signs (“No Mowing–Conservation Area”) were installed, and general maintenance was performed to increase the feeling of ownership of the project by the residents. Of course one of the major selling points was the reduced mowing costs once the trees are established.Sediment and Stormwater Program employees also take turns at classroom and scout presentations. Storm drain stenciling and classroom exercises with a watershed model are examples of how we keep the children involved.

National Conference
Our biannual national conference is well known for attracting innovators in erosion control and stormwater management. The conference allows the regulated community to see national success stories, reinforcing the importance of field implementation. Our third conference was held on October 21 – 23, 2002, at the Dover Downs Conference Center in Dover, DE. Dubbed “The Race for Clean Water,” the symposium attracted approximately 300 participants from 19 states.

Forty-seven speakers were on hand to present topics of interest over the three-day event. The primary areas of focus were low-impact development strategies for stormwater runoff, proper design of stormwater management practices, administering local programs, and innovative management of construction-site erosion and sedimentation. Forty-eight manufacturers and suppliers of products and services for the erosion control and stormwater management industries were hosted at a well-received exposition. To provide an implementation tie-in, a field trip offered a firsthand look at some of the more unusual stormwater BMPs that have been installed on development projects in the central part of the state. Finally, the first of the above-mentioned program initiative workshops was offered on stormwater modeling for low-impact design projects. Each component of the conference was fashioned to maximize the likelihood of transferring concepts to on-the-ground practices. When soliciting classroom presentations, we specifically requested presenters to use techniques such as demonstrations, exhibits, and breaking the class into groups for teamwork exercises. Each of these techniques was used where appropriate.

Together, these four arms of our training and education program–the Contractor’s Training Course, the CCR course, public education, and the national conference–touch on nearly all segments of Delaware’s citizenry. The impact has been a series of partnerships with the regulated community that provide the knowledge, implementation skills, and support necessary to conduct a successful program. Repeated evaluation and updating of these efforts puts us on the cutting edge and keeps our target audience interested and excited about continuing to work with DNREC to achieve our water-quality goals.

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