The Old West
I like movies, and one of my favorite genres of movies is the Western. There are several Western story-lines that have been created over the years, but one of my favorites is when the new sheriff arrives on the scene. Maybe the city has been taken advantage of by the local band of thieves, the town gunslinger, or what have you. But the sheriff arrives, and all is well, or so the townsfolk think. Unbeknownst to the townsfolk, their "sheriff" is really somebody who knows nothing about how to keep the town safe from the band of marauders. Yesterday, he was the town coroner or barkeeper, today he finds himself wearing the tin star. Sooner or later, the showdown comes. It is the sheriff against the bad guys, and the townsfolk find out if the sheriff they've put their trust in has what it takes to protect them.
Are we still talking about Stormwater?
We at CatchAll Environmental hear it all the time - the excuse for continuing to neglect a stormwater system. "I'll wait to do something until somebody tells me I have to." What they are really saying is they'll wait to do something until their municipal inspector tells them they have to do something. That is very dangerous territory.
Unfortunately, municipalities are hard-pressed for funding, and often hiring a dedicated, experienced stormwater inspector isn't in the budget. We see it a lot. The stormwater inspector of today is the fire fighter, the clerk, or the meter reader of yesterday. Today he has been given the tin star and is in charge of stormwater inspections.
Recently, we were contacted by a potential client who was told by his inspector that his entire vault bottom was chock-full of sediment and he needed to get it cleaned up. He went to the local vactor service and, lo and behold, they agreed with the municipal inspector that there was a ton of work to be done - nearly $100,000 worth of work, in fact. That brought them to us.
Ten minutes of reviewing the plans revealed that the "sediment" at the bottom of the vault was likely the sand designed to be there as a final water quality feature prior to the infiltration of the stormwater. The design showed an open-bottom vault with exposed sand, not a structure that filled up with sediment due to neglect. An on-site inspection verified that the sand had been placed just as the design required. While the vault needed some work, it was completely misdiagnosed by the municipal inspector. The vactor company, very willing to "clean up" the "sediment," saw an opportunity to take advantage. Fortunately, they called us and we were able to educate them before they made a big mistake by paying a huge bill for work that would have provided no actual improvement in the function of their stormwater system.
The stormwater sheriff was wrong, and unfortunately there was a maintenance company ready and willing to take their money while providing no real value.
The Fastest Gun in the West
Now let's look at it another way. If you are counting on your municipal stormwater inspector to tell you what you need to do to your system, you are taking a huge gamble. They may tell you that something needs to be done that doesn't need to be done, and you end up paying a huge, unnecessary bill. They may also tell you that everything is OK when it isn't. But where will they be if and when things don't go well? When you pay $100,000 for unnecessary maintenance and you find out, will they reimburse you? When they tell you that nothing needs to be done, but it really does, will they stand behind their statement? Ultimately, they aren't responsible for your system, you are. It is bad when they recommend unnecessary maintenance. It's even worse when they tell you everything is OK when it isn't. Imagine how badly that could turn out when the fastest gun in the West shows up.
Who is the fastest gun in the West? The third-party environmental group. Imagine how badly that brand new stormwater inspector would compare to an organized third-party environmental group with lawyers and engineers on staff. That group understands plans, understands stormwater, and understands the legal system. When they bring all those professionals together in an organized process focused on your property, the sheriff doesn't stand a chance. The third party environmental group is truly the fastest gun in the West, and when they show up, our tin star-toting sheriff will be nowhere to be found.
Don't rely on the municipality to tell you what you need or don't need. If they get it wrong, it is still your responsibility. When you pay a huge, unnecessary bill or continue to neglect a system in need of maintenance, that's when you will find out that they may not have the credentials you thought they did. You need to do more than get protection from the local stormwater sheriff. Hire a professional organization with decades of stormwater design and maintenance so they can properly diagnose your issue and provide you real protection.
Jeff McInnis is an engineer who knew there had to be a better way to help owners keep their systems in compliance.
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Our founder is an engineer who knew there had to be a better way to help owners keep their systems in compliance. He invented and patented the Catch-All® Storm Drain Maintenance Insert to make catch basin cleaning quick, easy, and inexpensive. And that’s just the start.
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