Protecting and preserving water quality is one of the primary goals of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The Texas Transportation Institute’s Environmental Management Program supports these agencies through research and testing, particularly in the area of erosion control. Ironically—due in part to record rainfall this summer—Texas has experienced an increase in water pollution problems due to erosion.
“Heavy and frequent rainfall during road construction projects can lead to some of the worst environmental problems unless the proper erosion and sediment control measures are in place to minimize the amount of sediment leaving the construction site,” says Assistant Research Scientist Jett McFalls.
Many of the products you see along construction sites to control erosion have been tested at TTI’s Hydraulics, Sedimentation, and Erosion Control Laboratory (HSECL). The overall purpose of the facility is to produce and maintain an “Approved Products List,” which TxDOT uses for all construction and maintenance activities.
“Most people don’t realize that the Environmental Protection Agency has identified sediment as the number one contributor to water pollution,” says Beverly Storey, manager of TTI’s Environmental Management Program. “Storm water runoff from construction sites can carry pollutants such as oil, gasoline and other chemicals in the top layer of soil. This runoff could wind up in streams, rivers and perhaps even water supplies.” Storey also points out that the polluted runoff could damage fish and wildlife habitat.
With TTI’s help, TxDOT and TCEQ can continue to improve the standards that protect Texans and their water supply in the future.