Construction sites lacking adequate stormwater controls can contribute significant amounts of sediment to streams and lakes.
To reduce the water quality impacts of active construction sites, NPDES regulations require that many construction projects install
and maintain appropriate erosion and sediment control, stormwater management, and housekeeping BMPs. In addition, the NPDES
regulations require many municipalities to implement programs to control runoff from construction sites. These regulation include reviewing
construction plans, conducting site inspections, and enforcing control measures necessary to minimize water quality
impacts. This BMP fact sheet focuses on the municipality's role in developing a construction inspection program and
inspecting construction sites within its jurisdiction.
Federal regulations require municipal permittees to develop a stormwater program that includes procedures for the inspection of
construction projects to ensure that appropriate BMPs are installed and maintained. In addition to federal
regulations, most municipalities have procedures to conduct inspections of constructions projects in accordance with their own
Developing a Stormwater Construction Inspection Program
Following the development of a program to review construction
phase stormwater plans, municipal permittees should also develop a program to track, inspect, and enforce their local
stormwater requirements at construction sites. A comprehensive stormwater construction inspection program should include:
Conducting Stormwater Inspections at Construction Sites
- Ordinance/Legal Authority
Phase II regulations require "an ordinance or other regulatory mechanism to require erosion and sediment controls, as
well as sanctions to ensure compliance." EPA's model erosion and
sediment control ordinance can help municipalities create their own ordinance.
- Construction Site Inventory
A tracking system must be developed to inventory projects and identify sites for inspection. The inventory ideally should also track the results of inspections and prioritize construction sites based on factors such as proximity to a waterbody, size, slope, and history of past violations. Construction site tracking should also include procedures to locate "non-filers" or sites that have failed to file proper paperwork.
- Construction Requirements and BMPs
Municipalities must provide construction operators with guidance on the appropriate selection and design of stormwater
BMPs. As an example, the California Stormwater Quality Association has developed a Construction BMP Handbook that contains BMP design standards.
- Plan Review Procedures
Submitted plans must be reviewed to ensure they address local requirements and protect water quality. EPA has developed a
BMP fact sheet describing
construction-phase stormwater plan review procedures.
- Construction Site Inspections
The municipality should identify an inspection frequency for sites (e.g., weekly, monthly, twice per season, etc.). The
inspection frequency can vary based on the site's priority. Additional information on conducting inspections is included
- Enforcement Procedures
An inspection program should have clear enforcement procedures, including a written progressive enforcement policy. Additional information on enforcement procedures is provided in the fact sheet on local ordinances for construction site runoff control.
- Training and Education
Municipal stormwater staff conducting inspections should receive training on regulatory requirements, BMPs, inspections,
and enforcement. National training is available from the International Erosion Control
The construction inspector's primary role is to ensure that all relevant precautions are taken to prevent
pollutants and sediment in stormwater from impacting state waters. An inspector must also determine the adequacy of
stormwater quality control measures. To achieve this, the inspector must first be familiar with applicable statutes, rules,
and regulations, permit requirements, and construction practices, and have a thorough understanding of the construction
inspection process. Inspectors often receive this training through on-the-job training with other inspectors or, for
larger municipalities, formal training for city inspectors. Successful construction inspections require frequent
examination, organization, planning, good judgment, and coordination of efforts by all parties.
The inspector should plan his or her inspection schedule to target sites that are in priority areas (i.e., sites discharging
to water quality-impaired waters, sites near surface waters, areas undergoing rapid development, large construction sites, or
sites with a history of noncompliance).
Prior to the inspection, the inspector should review available documents, such as permits, copies of the site plan, and any
past inspection reports from municipal stormwater inspectors who visited the site. The inspector must also be prepared for
the actual inspection and have the necessary personal protective equipment (i.e., steel-toed shoes, hard hat, and safety
vest) and inspection materials (i.e., digital camera, logbook, and copies of the permit and inspection form) to conduct the
During an inspection, inspectors are expected to perform their task in a professional and diplomatic manner by objectively documenting all of the inspection findings and developing a working relationship with the construction operator or other members of the public. The inspection should be thorough and consistent and cover all areas of the construction site and BMPs. Throughout the life of the project, the inspector needs to ensure that BMPs are installed and maintained properly and in working order in accordance with the construction site plan. Inspectors should assess perimeter controls (e.g., Silt Fence) and construction entrances and perform a walk-through of the site to assess stabilization practices (e.g., Seeding), structural sediment control practices (e.g. Sediment Trap), discharge points, housekeeping practices (e.g., General Construction Site Waste Management), and off-site areas to determine if adjacent properties or receiving waters are being adversely affected by construction activities.
Inspectors should document and track all findings at the construction site using inspection forms, photographs, notes, and written logs. One example stormwater construction inspection from is available from the University of Notre Dame [PDF - 27 KB - 2 pp] . Whenever possible,
photographs should be taken to document problems and to identify areas where subcontractors may need to conduct maintenance.
This documentation will aid the inspector in escalating enforcement or pursuing more stringent penalties if the site is in
Recommended Construction Inspection Process
To conduct a thorough construction site inspection, inspectors should consider using an inspection process similar to the
following (adapted from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's (MPCA) Stormwater Construction Inspection Guide [PDF - 5.77 MB - 38 pp] :
Common Problems Found During Inspections
- Plan your inspection ahead of time.
Obtain and review permit requirements, site map with BMP locations marked, and any other necessary information needed
to plan how you will conduct the site inspection. Create a formal checklist to use during the inspection. Before entering the
construction site, take note of the surroundings and stages of construction. The inspector should begin at a low point and
work uphill, making sure to observe all discharge points and any off-site support activities.
- Inspect perimeter controls and slopes.
The inspector should examine all perimeter controls (such as silt fences) to determine whether they are adequate for the
drainage area they were designed to treat, and that they have been properly installed and maintained. The structural integrity of the
BMP should be checked to determine whether portions of the BMP need to be replaced. Slopes and temporary stockpiles should
be inspected to determine if sediment and erosion controls are effective; look for signs of slumps or rills, as well as
tracking of stockpiled materials to other parts of the site.
- Compare BMPs in the site plan with the construction site conditions.
Determine whether BMPs are in place as specified in the site plan and evaluate whether those BMPs have been adequately
installed and maintained. Document any potential violations and their location and look for areas where additional BMPs are
needed that are not specified in the site plan.
- Inspect site entrances/exits.
Inspect the vehicle construction entrance/exit and surrounding streets to determine if there has been excessive tracking
of sediment from the site. Look for evidence of additional areas where vehicles are entering or exiting that are not on the
site plan and are not stabilized.
- Inspect sediment controls.
Inspect sediment basins and look for signs that sediment has accumulated beyond one-third to one-half the original
capacity of the basin. If so, document that maintenance is required.
- Inspect pollution prevention and good housekeeping practices.
Inspect trash areas and material storage and staging areas to ensure that materials are properly maintained and that
pollutant sources are not exposed to rainfall or runoff. Where applicable, verify that concrete washouts are being used
properly and are correctly sized for the volume of washwater generated at the site. Inspect vehicle/equipment fueling and
maintenance areas for the presence of spill control measures and for evidence of leaks or spills.
- Inspect discharge points and downstream, off-site areas.
Inspect all discharge points and downstream areas to determine if erosion and sediment control practices are effective in
preventing offsite impacts. Walk down the street if necessary to look for evidence of discharges from the site. This is
particularly important in areas with existing curb and gutter. Inspect down-slope catch basins to determine
whether they are adequately protected, and identify whether sediment buildup has occurred. The inspector should document any
violations or evidence of offsite impacts on the inspection form and with photographs.
The following are problems commonly found during inspections of construction sites. An inspector's role is to identify these
types of non-compliance:
Problem #1 - No temporary or permanent cover
Areas that have exposed soil and are not part of the active construction activity should have temporary erosion control
cover. Areas that are at final grade should receive permanent cover as soon as possible.
Problem #2 - No sediment controls on-site
Sediment control practices (e.g., silt fences, sediment traps/basins) must be in place before land disturbing activities
Problem #3 - No sediment control for temporary stockpiles
Temporary stockpiles must have perimeter controls and cannot be placed in waterways or runoff conveyance systems,
including curb and gutter systems.
Problem #4 - No inlet protection
All storm drain inlets that receive runoff from the construction site must be protected before construction activities
begin, and this protection must be maintained until the site is stabilized.
Problem #5 - No BMPs to minimize vehicle tracking on to the road
Vehicle exits must have BMPs such as stone pads or concrete or steel wash racks to prevent vehicle tracking of sediment.
If BMPs are not adequately keeping sediment off the street, then tracked sediment may need to be removed and the
entrance/exit protection redesigned or repaired to improve its effectiveness.
Problem #6 - Improper solid waste or hazardous materials management
To minimize the impacts of spills and leaks, solid waste must be disposed of in designated containers, and hazardous materials (including gasoline, oil, and paint)
must be properly stored to prevent transport in rainfall and in runoff.
Problem #7 - Dewatering at the construction site
Dewatering from building footings or other construction site sources should not be discharged without treatment. Also turbid water should be filtered or allowed to settle before being discharged from the site.
Problem #8 - Poorly maintained BMPs
Site controls are only as effective as the operation and maintence. Inspectors should ensure that BMPs identified on site plans are not only installed, but that records exist documenting inspections and maintenance as appropriate. In some instances, poorly maintained BMPs actually increase erosion rates at a site.
Municipal permittees commonly lack staff resources for frequent, comprehensive inspections. Inspections can be
time-consuming, especially in large, rapidly developing communities. Without adequate time, inspectors may tend to do more
'drive-by' inspections in lieu of a more thorough walk-through of a site, which vastly decreases the effectiveness of the
Permitted municipalities can look to outside sources for construction inspectors. Some permitting authorities, such as Maine have implemented a private inspector program in which individuals can receive stormwater management training
to become certified inspectors to reduce the burden on the governing agency. These private inspectors can be hired directly
by the contractor when the governing agency anticipates that a larger, more complicated site will require substantial agency
resources. Contractor certification programs are supplements to a municipal inspection and enforcement program. Such programs
might fail if the contractors and inspectors are not held accountable, even without certification. Because there is a
potential for contractors and private inspectors to abuse their certification, some states require spot checks by municipal
Another potential stumbling block in implementing a construction inspection program is that inspectors lack the necessary
authority to enforce the local ordinance effectively. To quickly gain compliance and minimize pollutant discharge, inspectors
must be able to process necessary enforcement actions, such as notices of violation or administrative fines. In addition, if
inspectors do not adequately document and track inspection findings it can be difficult to properly escalate enforcement or
pursue more stringent penalties. It is imperative that all enforcement actions are legally defensible, and proper
documentation is critical.
Reice and Andrews (2000) measured water quality parameters at 17 construction sites in 3 in North Carolina jurisdictions
to determine whether the degree of regulatory stringency and the level of municipal enforcement affected water quality. At each site, the
researchers collected benthic macroinvertebrates and water samples for chemical analysis, and analyzed leaf litter decomposition rates
upstream from, downstream from, and at the construction site. Samples were taken before the commencement of construction
activities, during the "peak" land disturbance, and after the site was completed and released by the regulatory agency. The
results showed that construction sites in jurisdictions with strong enforcement had a significantly smaller environmental impact
on streams than those jurisdictions with weaker enforcement. The stringency of local regulations was not an important factor determining water quality relative to
For municipal permittees, there are a number of ways to measure the effectiveness of a construction inspection program. A
municipal permittee could document and track the rate of change in instances of noncompliance at construction sites.
Alternatively, a permittee could track the numbers, types, and overall performance (pass/fail) of BMPs installed at sites in
the community to determine if better BMPs are being selected, or if better BMP performance is seen over time as a result of
the inspections. Finally, a municipal permittee might measure the number of inspections accomplished each month or the
number of times each site was visited in a year to measure programmatic progress in terms of inspector efficiency.
Some municipal permittees are attempting to correlate inspections with water quality improvements as well. The City of Charlotte and the County of Mecklenburg have collaborated to develop an effective erosion and sediment
control enforcement program that employs frequent inspections, notices of violation, and fines, as well as an appeals process
to effectively and fairly require compliance. Inspections are conducted approximately once every two weeks, and fines of up to
$5,000 per day are possible. Before any land disturbance, a form naming the person "financially responsible" is completed for
each project. The financially responsible party is on record as the party to accept any notices of violation or related
documents for any noncompliance with the City of Charlotte's Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Ordinance.
The goal of the program is to achieve a 25 percent reduction in total suspended solids loads in streams with established
in-stream stormwater monitoring sites. For streams where no sites have been established, the goal is to prevent turbidity
levels from increasing more than 25 percent downstream of the construction site. If it is determined that turbidity levels
have increased more than 25 percent, the city increases its inspections. Data are maintained in an inspector logbook, and a
report is provided at the end of each quarter. These reports are then provided to staff during water quality meetings at the
beginning of each quarter. Based on the reports, action plans are developed to enhance measures, such as inspection and
enforcement activities, to achieve water quality goals. Several streams have shown a reduction in sediment levels since the
program began in 1999. Additional monitoring is needed to establish long-term trends.
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Protecting the Environment Using Erosion Control. [http://charmeck.org/CITY/CHARLOTTE/EPM/SERVICES/LANDDEVELOPMENT/EROSION/Pages/Charlotte%20Soil%20Erosion%20and%20Sedimentation%20Control.aspx ]. Accessed June 3, 2005.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Stormwater Construction Inspection Guide. 2004 [http://www.pca.state.mn.us/publications/wq-strm2-10.pdf [PDF - 5.77 MB - 38 pp] ]
Reice, S.R., and R.N. Andrews. 2000. Effectiveness of Regulatory Incentives for Sediment Pollution Prevention:
Evaluation Through Policy Analysis and Biomonitoring. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Erosion and Sediment Control Training and Certification Program. [http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/TrainingCertification.aspx ]. Accessed June 3, 2005.