Construction Sites: There Will Be Mud

Exposed Soil = Pollution (Clearing Our Waters Campaign)

After the bulldozers go through and before the cement is poured, every construction site is a potential mud slide waiting to be washed into the nearest river or stream. Regulations call for soil stabilization with mulch and grass seed.

Richard Klein, of the Clearing Our Waters Campaign, published the results of a survey of construction sites in the Greater Baltimore area ( ES=PReport4thDraft (1).pdf). The survey was conducted to raise awareness and measure compliance (see The survey found that compliance with regulations was low in all jurisdictions (see Baltimore Sun article, 9/19/14).

For more information, contact Richard at or 410-654-3021.

What the Survey Accomplished

Volunteers traveled in a van to a dozen construction sites within each of Greater Baltimore’s six jurisdictions: Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.  Each volunteer answered a few easy questions regarding the quality of soil erosion control on each site visited. (See the survey instructions posted at: Each site was evaluated from adjoining public areas without trespassing onto private property.

Some jurisdictions are achieving a high degree of success in winning contractor compliance with State and local mud-pollution control laws. These laws require that straw mulch and grass be used to stabilize exposed soils from erosive forces. Stabilization reduces off-site mud pollution by 90% to 99% whereas perimeter measures, like black silt fences, retain only a third of the mud on the site. Only stabilization can reduce construction site impacts to a level safeguarding our streams, lakes and tidal waters.

Through this survey, Klein has increased public awareness of the importance of halting mud pollution through stabilization.  Similar past efforts have produced a dramatic improvement in compliance. The publicity resulting from the Greater Baltimore survey will also motivate better compliance on the part of contractors and increase support for our erosion and sediment control enforcement agencies. This effort could also serve as a model for improving compliance with other clean water laws exhibiting poor compliance. For further details visit