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SWPPP vs. Erosion Control (2023)

swppp vs erosion control

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) and Erosion Control are terms often used in environmental management

Especially concerning construction sites.

While both appear to serve similar purposes, they are fundamentally different in

  1. Scope
  2. Application
  3. Regulatory requirements.

This article aims to elucidate the differences between the two based on comprehensive guidelines and protocols.

Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

erosion control with silt fence

What is a SWPPP?

  • A SWPPP is a comprehensive plan required by EPA and state regulations for construction sites over 1 acre.
    • The purpose is to prevent stormwater contamination from construction activities. Sites must obtain NPDES permit coverage for stormwater discharges and prepare a SWPPP to comply.
npdes permit

See also: What is SWPPP ?

  • The SWPPP identifies all potential sources of stormwater pollution at the construction site including sediment as well as things like concrete washout, paints, solvents, fuels, and other materials. It covers everything from site planning to waste management.
  • The SWPPP then describes a set of best management practices (BMPs) that will be implemented to minimize and control pollutants in stormwater discharges.
    • This includes both structural BMPs like silt fences and sediment ponds as well as non-structural BMPs like good housekeeping, spill prevention, and staff training.
  • A SWPPP also covers inspection, maintenance, and recordkeeping procedures to ensure BMPs are properly implemented and effective.Typical BMPs include things like sediment traps, inlet protection, construction entrances, and concrete washouts.
  • SWPPPs are lengthy written documents, usually 30+ pages. They are developed by qualified personnel like CPESCs with stormwater expertise. Local agencies often review SWPPPs as part of the permitting process.
  • SWPPPs must be kept on site and available for inspection. They are implemented through all stages of construction until the site achieves final stabilization.

What is an Erosion Control Plan?

labor are looking at job site
  • An erosion control plan specifically focuses on minimizing erosion and keeping soil in place during construction. These are typically required by local ordinances as part of land disturbance permitting.
  • Erosion control plans identify areas at risk for erosion like steep graded slopes and design measures like surface roughening, soil binding, and revegetation to stabilize these areas.
  • Erosion control plans specify erosion-related BMPs like silt fences, erosion control blankets, check dams, and temporary seeding strategies. They contain drawings and specifications for required measures.
  • Local agencies review erosion control plans primarily during initial site grading and clearing stages of construction, often with less stringent inspection requirements than SWPPPs.
  • Erosion control plans are usually prepared by civil engineers as part of the overall site design and engineering. They focus heavily on preventing erosion from mass grading.

See also: Stormwater Runoff: Causes, Impacts, and Solutions

Key Differences

  • Scope: The SWPPP covers all potential stormwater contaminants while the erosion control plan focuses specifically on preventing erosion and sediment loss.
  • Purpose: The SWPPP is a requirement of federal and state clean water regulations. The erosion control plan fulfills local land disturbance requirements.
  • BMPs: The SWPPP includes a wider range of BMPs covering erosion as well as good housekeeping and material management. The erosion control plan focuses specifically on erosion prevention BMPs.
  • Detail: The SWPPP goes beyond just listing BMPs to cover procedures, training, inspections, maintenance, and recordkeeping. The erosion control plan focuses primarily on drawings and specifications.
  • Regulatory: The SWPPP is mandatory for NPDES permit coverage. The erosion control plan is required by local ordinances.
  • Timeframe: The SWPPP pertains throughout construction until final stabilization. The erosion control plan primarily targets initial land clearing phases.
  • Planning: SWPPPs encourage early site water quality considerations while erosion control happens later in design.
  • Expertise: SWPPPs are produced by stormwater experts. Erosion control plans are created by design engineers.

In summary, the SWPPP is a comprehensive regulatory requirement, while the erosion control plan provides supplemental local controls against erosion.

Most construction sites will need both an NPDES SWPPP and a local erosion control plan.

The SWPPP incorporates and builds upon the erosion control plan to create a complete system for stormwater pollution prevention.

The two plans work hand in hand to protect water quality during construction activities.


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