How I Do It: The Art of Erosion Control Services - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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How I Do It: The Art of Erosion Control Services

Photo: MMC Land Management

Erosion control may not be a service that results in glamorous photos like installing outdoor living spaces, but it is a critical piece to sustainability and can help open doors to other work opportunities.

MMC Land Management, based in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, has been providing erosion control services since 2010, when they began working with homebuilders to help them stay compliant with local regulations. Their customer base has expanded to real estate developers, excavations companies, and construction companies. As the natural gas industry has taken hold in the Marcellus and Utica basins, they’ve also started servicing oil and gas projects.

“Erosion control services protect our streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands by ensuring sediment does not leave a construction site and enters the watershed systems,” says Mark Platt, a sales manager with MMC Land Management. “Proper controls also prevent sites from becoming unstable and unsuitable for construction, water pollution, and soil loss mainly from rain events. Erosion control contractors like MMC Land Management prevent water runoffs from causing damages to the environment.”

Platt says performing erosion control has shaped the company they are today.

“Because of our erosion control staff and equipment, we have been able to grow our revenues in our landscaping and snow removal division through synergies and vertical integrations,” Platt says. “For example, a lot of our erosion team members perform snow removal work which would have otherwise been subcontracted out. Since we have invested heavily in equipment to support our erosion work, we now manufacture our own landscaping mulch and some of our soils.”

Erosion Control Methods

Platt says that most of the time, they follow plans created by engineers, using different erosion control methods approved by regulatory agencies in the area. Other times they will provide guidance on erosion control practices they know work best from experience.

Photo: MMC Land Management

There are multiple ways to control erosion, from perimeter controls such as compost filter socks to silt fences. Platt says they try to stay on top of innovation in the space and install the most reliable erosion control possible.

“If the correct controls are installed properly, then they just need to be monitored after rain events,” Platt says. “In certain instances, buildup of silt will need to be removed to ensure the controls can work correctly. In other situations, additional controls will be installed so sites remain in compliance.”

The EPA requires that all erosion and sediment best management practices be implemented before the start of construction activity. Platt says county conservation districts are the local agencies that enforce the regulations set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

“They are the eyes and ears of the DEP and will monitor sites for compliance,” he says. “Our job is to help our customers keep their sites operating because the conversation districts can quickly shut down a site for non-compliance and issue fines. Those fines can be quite expensive, so we will work with them to keep our customers’ projects open and operating within budget.”

Because erosion control involves various tasks, Platt says they utilize multiple types of equipment, including skid loaders, excavators, tractors, mulch blowers, hydroseeders, soil preparators, street sweepers, and straw blowers.

“Because most of our erosion control equipment can be used on our landscape installation projects, we operate our erosion division under our construction group,” Platt says. “Most of the erosion work is construction related and requires equipment operators, so operating it under our construction group makes the most sense for us.”

Revegetation

When it comes to revegetation, several different applications can be used depending on the time of year and site conditions.

Photo: MMC Land Management

“Those applications include straw seeding applied by using a straw blower, hydroseeding with a hydroseeder, compost seeding with a mulch blower, and installing erosion control blankets such as natural fibers like straw and coconut along with synthetic engineered blankets,” Platt says.

MMC Land Management also uses several types of hydroseeders. They use a small pull-behind hydroseeder for smaller sites and a CDL truck-mounted unit for larger sites. If site access is a problem, they also have a hydroseeder mounted on an offroad tracked machine. 

Like the erosion control methods, the plant material for revegetation is often outlined in the civil plans created by engineers. Platt says they can provide options based on the site conditions for the projects that don’t have plans.

Under good weather conditions, growth can occur in a week’s time after an application. Drought or cold conditions can slow growth. Platt says sometimes they can provide watering services in drought situations, but weather can be challenging. He says they prefer to seed from March 15 to June 15 and Sept. 1 to Nov. 15, but they are flexible with customers’ needs.  

“If seeding takes place within the recommended time periods, then we generally warranty the seeding,” Platt says. “Unfortunately, there are times when a major weather event moves through, which can cause damage to even the best-laid plans. In those instances, the repair work can be an additional charge. Of course, we work closely with our customers to minimize any unforeseen work that may occur.”

Main Challenges

The main challenges with erosion control are site access, coordination with other contractors and the timeliness of the work.

Photo: MMC Land Management

“In difficult situations, controlling erosion can be expensive, so projects need to have the proper budgeting in place,” Platt says.

He notes that Mother Nature can throw the best-laid plans out the window, so they have to be able to mobilize quickly to ensure their customers’ sites remain in compliance.

“At the end of the day, we are a land management company that provides services to customers and projects from the very first shovel full of dirt to maintaining the completed projects through the landscaping and snow seasons,” Platt says. “Offering erosion control services can be quite an expensive endeavor, but it can be a profitable and rewarding one as well. I would tell anyone who is considering adding erosion control to make sure you have a well-educated and capable staff because customers will ultimately be looking to you to provide suggestions and professional advice. The last thing you want to do is show up on a jobsite and not deliver the expected outcome.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the content manager for NALP.