Isthmus Engineers Take on SWPPP


Isthmus engineers commit to protecting water quality

The Stone Arch Bridge at Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis, where storm water enters the Mississippi River.

Isthmus Engineering senior engineers, Amy DeBruin, PE (MN, WI), and Andrea Fastenow, PE (MN), earned their Design of Construction Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP or SW3P) certification over the summer of 2016. This certification is earned through intensive classwork followed by a comprehensive test. Amy and Andrea completed the coursework through the University of Minnesota Erosion and Stormwater Management Certification Program which works in conjunction with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and MnDOT.

A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan is a document that describes the steps an agency will take to prevent construction site pollution from discharging into adjacent water systems. The development of a SWPPP is a requirement for construction sites to keep in compliance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)/State Disposal System (SDS) Construction Stormwater (CSW) permit.

Amy designs roadways and provides extensive quality reviews for Isthmus and others. She notes that “All road engineering plans require a SWPPP and you have to be certified to sign those plan sets. If Isthmus has our own plan set we need to be compliant.” She and Andrea felt that the coursework was a valuable education opportunity —necessary to consider all the facets of project sites and its environmental impact. “You might have noticed that around Lake Nokomis ponds have been added to allow sediment to filter from storm drains to allow clean water into the lake,” said Andrea, “Minneapolis is adding all sorts of things like that to help keep our waterways clean.”

Andrea and Amy shared some of the little-known facts about construction site pollution prevention measures. Each element at a construction site to prevent erosion and run-off serves a very specific purpose. Orange fencing near waterways and black netting within a water system are erected to catch pollutants. Even the grasses around project sites are chosen intentionally—with the creation of site-specific seed mixtures for replacing grass.

Isthmus acknowledged their certification at an all-company monthly meeting. Since the environmental guidelines for construction sites are constantly changing, Amy and Andrea will be eligible for recertification in two years by taking a refresher course.

A SWPPP includes both a narrative description as well as detail sheets both aimed at addressing construction site conditions during each stage of the project including:

  • Description of the construction activities planned
  • Temporary erosion and sediment control plans
  • Permanent erosion and sediment control plans
  • Plans for stormwater management
  • Site-specific pollution prevention strategies

For road projects planned near water systems, engineering firms require a SWPPP-certified engineer to adhere to the prevention plans in place that protect Minnesota water systems from run-off. “When there is digging of dirt and soil for road systems, we don’t want that to run off into rivers. That kind of erosion is detrimental to the environment,” said Amy. SWPPPs are drawn up to include both temporary and permanent erosion plans at each build site.

However, each construction site is different—conditions, soil types, expected precipitation—therefore each SWPPP is unique to the site. The plans are required to be at the site during the project and on file three years after completion. A robust and successful SWPPP anticipates concerns before a project begins and is adaptable to the inevitable changes that occur on every construction site.

Read more about SWPPP components from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 

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