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Silt Fence installation efficacy: definitive research calls for toughening specifications and introducing new technology

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Courtesy of L & M Supply Company

Introduction: Silt fence is a joke on many construction sites. It is often seen just blowing in the wind, or sagging and broken down. Some specifiers won’t utilize silt fence on their sites because it is too often installed improperly, and not maintained. Yet, the need for effective on-site sediment control has never been greater.

Sediment-laden runoff has been shown to result in the loss of in-stream habitats for fish and other aquatic species, an increased difficulty in filtering drinking water, the loss of drinking water storage capacity, and the negative impacts on the navigational capacity of waterways (EPA833-F-00-001, January, 2000 Storm Water Phase II Fact Sheet 1.0). Sediment clogs stormwater conveyance systems and causes expensive maintenance repairs. For these reasons it is unlawful to discharge sediment into our waterways.

Ineffective silt fence is also a waste of valuable environmental protection dollars. Specifications exist to ensure construction monies are properly spent, and to insure that owners’ receive their monies worth. When specifications are not followed, or are inadequately written, our financial and environmental resources are wasted.

Still silt fence is often the primary sediment control practice on a site in the early phases of construction for logistical reasons – controls are not practical on the interior until the site work has been completed. When a site is first opened up, silt fence is used on the perimeter, and along waterways, to minimize sediment loss from the site.

Silt fence is also used along streets within a development to prevent sediment from entering the stormwater system. Its somewhat temporary nature promotes its use until more permanent stabilization practices can be utilized.

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