By Rod Hoffman
In my previous blog, I talked about stormwater regulations and how they affect which devices go where. This time, I feel the need to address proprietary “device” confusion.
The Environmental Protection Agency may or may not directly apply in your area. In most cases, acceptance of a best management practice proprietary device is up to the state or local agency overseeing the project. Agency requirements can range from a simple, third-party study to prove your device works to a lengthy, nearly impossible exercise coupled with a mountain of paperwork.
This begs the question: Why is it so difficult and controversial?
Follow the money. The main reason this is an issue is because some less than honest proprietary device manufacturers made and sold devices that did not work. The result was ugly, with serious erosion and contamination occurring. The number one reason these devices did not work was size, and size really, really matters in proprietary stormwater devices. Intuitively, we know a smaller device is cheaper to make so selling a smaller device will typically get a manufacturer the job. Like the Music Man, the device maker will be down the road to the next town before the sham comes to light.
Hydrodynamic separator devices are designed for a very specific flow rate. As soon as that flow rate is exceeded, the system is being overwhelmed and possibly bypassing that device and the purported treatment. This flow could possibly damage the device and will certainly damage the environment. Some manufacturers are driven by the short term and do not care if the device really works, only that they sold one or more devices. If the specification says “or equal,” the contractor begins looking for a lower cost replacement as soon as he or she gets the job. Unfortunately, I know this situation all too well – I was that contractor on many occasions. However, for the most part, I was lucky. I usually found a cheaper alternative that worked as good or better. I give credit to the engineers who did their homework as well. Many of my jobs were private renovations in MS4 areas so anything was permissible to meet a negligible municipal ordinance.
Regardless of whether you are looking or they are looking, perform your own research. Find a device manufacturer who has done the legwork and proven their device through rigorous and verifiable testing. Take the time to learn that device’s true capabilities and maintenance expectations and be ready to defend your chosen device supplier. There are very good devices out there that really do work. At the same time, there are also very poor devices and vendors out there that will sell anything and are happy to make that decision. If you design and install the right size device in the right application, you can do great things for your client or customer.
We are all in this to protect the environment. As local precast concrete manufacturers, let’s make sure the devices and processes we are representing and selling do the job right.
Rod Hoffman is Lindsay Precast – Stay Right Division’s Safety and Training Manager.