Muddy Water Watch Case Study - Phase I

Primary Basin‐wide Issues:

1) Time Attenuation of Enforcement Action

MWW trainees have discovered that most local program officials do visit sites upon receipt of complaints. While these sites are visited and problematic areas are found, this does not mean that Local Programs commit to enforcing a remedy of the violations immediately.  Frequently, these situations result in a “Notice of Non‐Compliance,” a document explaining the places/items of non‐compliance throughout the construction site, from Catawba Basin Local Programs. These “Notices of Non‐Compliance” or similarly entitled documents are filed with the party responsible for the construction site with a timeframe for remediation, typically ~ 14‐30 days. After this period the Local Program could then pursue a Notice of Violation, if they desire. Frequently, however, MWW participants have found that Local Programs do not follow‐up on these Notices of Non‐Compliance. These Local Programs have been willing to follow‐up on reports, if contacted by MWW participants, but otherwise Programs explain that they are stretched too thin to contact MWW reporters and follow‐up on all violations at sites. Therefore, these “Notices of Non‐Compliance” hold no one accountable for violations at construction sites.

Photo documentation with description of inspection/correspondence activities follows:

Stonewater Development‐ Ryan Homes, Horseshoe Bend Beach Road, Mount Holly, Gaston County, NC

Initial MWW Reports Filed on 15 December 2008: CB0039, CB0120, and CB0283

Stonecrest 22 December 2008: CB0289

Stonecrest 22 December 2008: CB0290

Additional MWW Reports Filed on 22 December 2008: CB0289, CB0290, and CB0291

Additional MWW Reports Filed on 22 December 2008: CB0289, CB0290, and CB0291

Additional MWW Reports Filed on 22 December 2008: CB0289, CB0290, and CB0291 - 2

Upon filing these reports, Gaston County Inspectors were contacted to confirm receipt and request a meeting. On 12 January 2009, Catawba RIVERKEEPER® David Merryman along with others met with Gaston County Inspector Danon Lawson to discuss issues of concern at Ryan Homes’ Stonewater Development.  On 18 January 2009, a MWW training site visit as conducted at this location. Over 25 MWW trainees scoured the site learning to discern the difference between BMPs violations and compliance.

Stonecrest MWW site visit


On 23 January 2009, Gaston County met with individuals from Ryan Homes and their subcontractors to discuss some of the construction stormwater issues at Stonewater. A visit to this site a few weeks later on 9 February 2009 proved to show improvements at some lots but not all. The following photos were submitted directly to the Gaston County Inspector on 9 February 2009. 

Stonewater - 22 December 2008: CB0291

Stonewater - February 2009

This site was not visited again until late May 2009 when site reports CB0570, CB0571, CB0572, and CB0285 were filed.

Stonecrest May 2009

Stonecrest May 29 2009


On 1 June 2009, Gaston County revisited the site after the above reports were filed. They submitted a response with photos regarding one area of concern. Although prompt, this follow‐up from the County addressed only one of the several BMP failures reported in the late May MWW reports.

This site is still being monitored by MWW participants and communication with Gaston County inspectors continue. The most recent communiqués occurred 6 July 2009 and 17 July 2009. Although many deficiencies still exist at this site, the MWW reporting and followup process has proved vital to curtailing and fixing some of the construction stormwater issues at Stonewater.

Primary Lessons Learned from Stonewater Development

→ The ability of Local Programs to provide open‐ended “non‐compliance” notices with no actual violation documented allows for an attenuation of compliance at construction sites. Thus, gradual measures are completed by site developers to keep Local Programs from filing Notices of Violations. These “non‐compliance” reports allow the Local Programs to build report with local workers and developers, but they also increase the mobility of sediment through non‐compliant BMP measures. 

→ Albeit 2 weeks at times, Local Programs respond more quickly to complaints and followup inquiries than State Division of Land Quality Inspectors.

→ Local Programs tend to pick out one or two major non‐compliant BMPs at construction sites. In the meantime, disregarding, or at least letting slide, the cumulative degrading impacts concentrated flow, improper sediment fences, filled sediment traps and basins, etc.  This inability, or potential unwillingness, to bring entire construction sites into compliance catalyzes future failure of the comprehensive BMP system.

2) Clay Soil Mobility and Retention: Sediment vs. “Colored Water”

Local Programs and State Regulators from the NC DENR Division of Water Quality cannot and have not distinguished sediment deposition and turbidity standard violations, even while turbidity standard violations due subsequently become sediment deposits.

Sediment vs. Turbid Water aka “colored water”:

Sediment vs. Turbid Water aka “colored water”


Poor Site Planning and Site Review Prior to Construction:

On several occasions during MWW Phase I, MWW participants and Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman have had to suggest and explain to Local Programs and the State of NC that the approved site plan for Sediment and Erosion Control did not adequately protect our State’s waterways from sediment. Upon visiting several sites during and after rain events (≤ 1 inch in magnitude), MWW participants found construction sites compromised by sheet flow, over‐topped sediment traps and basins, and blown‐out velocity control measures. All of these non‐compliant measures indicated that the comprehensive approach for BMP functionality at the site failed to protect the site and surrounding properties.

Documented with Gaston County on 15 December 2008 Stonewater

2008-12-11 Stonewater Retention Ponds

Burton Creek Development in Lincoln County, N‐ Site reported on 15 December 2008 as MWW Report wrh4 – 121308.

Burton Creek Development


Photo from 16 April 2009 at River Ridge Development in Caldwell County, NC‐ bank instability apparent at entrance. Site directly documented with NC DENR Asheville Regional Office.

Photo from 16 April 2009 at River Ridge Development in Caldwell County, NC‐ bank instability


Photo from 08 July 2009 at River Ridge Development in Caldwell County, NC‐ bank instability and compromised in several locations throughout the site.  Documented directly with NC DENR Asheville Regional Office.

Photo from 08 July 2009 at River Ridge Development


Good Actors ‐ Training Participation of Local and State Regulators:

Inspectors from all of the Local Programs and NC DENR Mooresville Regional Office within the Catawba River Basin have been accommodating and willing to participate in MWW trainings. Several of the programs have cross‐pollinated and helped instruct trainees in counties outside their regulatory jurisdiction. Several Local Programs have also extended opportunities for MWW trainees to participate in construction sites inspections.

While the Local Programs and the State Inspectors have been very willing to help train citizens, many MWW participants have complained that Inspectors do not actually “do” in the field what they have explained that they “do” in the classroom. This has been a contentious issue among many MWW participants and has resulted in some being extremely discouraged. This has also necessitated continual explanation that Inspectors cannot “do” what they are supposed to without public support and backing.

Prepared by Catawba RIVERKEEPER®

Catawba RIVEKEEPER® is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc.

Riverkeeper is a registered trademark of Riverkeeper, Inc., and is licensed for use herein.




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