By Kathryn A. Navarra


The protection of water sources and the implementation of methods to limit the pollutants that enter the waterways is an issue at the forefront of government and industry discussions worldwide. It affects all aspects of the landscape industry; backflow devices are required on irrigation systems to protect the entrance of pollutants into the potable water systems and best management practices (BMPs) in the construction and landscape industry are required to control soil erosion and storm water runoff.

Several factors contribute to soil erosion. Heavy rainfall, the removal of a majority of existing vegetation, naturally erodible soils, and steep slopes can create pollution for surrounding water sources. “The number one pollutant in waterways worldwide is soil,” said Rob Yoakum, international sales and tech support with Profile Products.

Legislation to control erosion and sediment runoff began December 8, 1999 when the Federal Register published the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which subsequently went into effect on March 10, 2003. Incorporated as part of the Clean Water Act, which protects clean drinking water, the NPDES is an extension that covers clean water on recreation sties and clean waterways for food sources such as fish. Storm water discharges from construction sites and other activities that disturb one acre or more of land also fall under NPDES regulation.

The Stormwater Pollution Protection Plan (SWPPP), which falls under the NPDES umbrella, incorporates select BMPs on the site to provide maximum protection against soil erosion and storm water runoff. “The goal of using a BMP is to control the sediment loss on site while establishing vegetation and establishing it quickly,” said Yoakum. “The number one best erosion control out there is vegetation.” Once a SWPPP is designed for the site, the EPA grants a permit allowing construction to begin.

There are several BMPs available. As Yoakum noted, establishing vegetation is the best protection against soil erosion on a site. Hydroseeding and/or erosion blankets — available in straw, jute or synthetic fibers — can be used to establish ground cover and vegetation. Selection of hydromulch material or blanket type will depend on each specific site condition. In addition to using BMPs to encourage vegetation, there are several options that can aid in controlling sediment runoff. Silt fence can be installed around the site’s perimeter to prevent runoff. Similarly, silt socks and triangle silt dikes can be used to protect storm drains from site sediment runoff. Controlling dust on site is also a critical part of a SWPPP. Water additives can be used to limit the amount of dust that enters the air. “When you sit right down and look at it, using a BMP is much more cost effective than people think,” said Yoakum. “The contractor can be fined up to $22,000 a day under Phase II regulation if they are not in compliance.”

Storm water runoff and sediment control are now in the spotlight as critical aspects of keeping the green industry “green.” Like other professions that impact the public’s well being — such as doctors, lawyers and engineers where professional competency is expected — individuals who design and inspect the implementation of SWPPPs are required to demonstrate a thorough understanding of related erosion and storm water quality practices.



CPESC, Inc., a non-profit corporation, provides three types of certification programs based upon the Phase II regulations. CPESC, Inc. was co-founded by The Soil and Water Conservation Society and The International Erosion Control Association, groups that strive to bring continuing education to the industry’s professionals. The certifications currently available are the Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC), the Certified Professional in Storm Water Quality (CPSWQ) and the Certified Erosion Sediment and Storm Water Inspector (CESSWI). Each is based on a combination of educational background, field experience, references, personal history and the completion of an exam with a score of 70 percent or higher.

Once certified, a CPESC is able to develop and review permits, design and review erosion and soil and drainage plans, install and inspect erosion and sediment control practices, and assist other regulators or provide education to the public. Similarly, a CPSWQ is required to develop and review NPDES permits, design and review SWPPPs, install and inspect storm water management practices, and assist other regulators and provide public education programs. A CESSWI, the most recently added certification, is required to inspect construction and post-construction management practices. The breadth of knowledge required for each certification level ensures knowledge of erosion and sediment control pre- and during construction, and also ensures that the storm water quality post-construction is upheld, explained David H. Ward, executive director of CPESC, Inc.

Traditionally, individuals seeking certification through CPESC, Inc. were manufacturers or consultants who contracted out to construction and landscape businesses. “We now have some landscape companies who are applying for CPESC certifications,” said Ward. “Having a CPESC certified employee on staff increases a company’s marketability.” He added that an increasing number of bid packages are requiring a CPESC certified company included with the initial bid package. For companies who do not have a CPESC-certified employee on staff, the CPESC, Inc. Web site offers an online directory listing the names of all members in good standing for each certification. Currently, most projects do not require that each company, landscape or construction, have a CPESC on site or on staff at all times. In many situations they are required to take the site’s storm water plans to a CPESC who stamps and signs off on them, Yoakum explained.

Yoakum, who will take the CPESC exam in 2008 added, “I relate the CPESC certification to someone who understands taxes. They may have an understanding of taxes, but they’re not a CPA. Likewise, there are a lot of people in the industry who understand soil erosion and Phase II regulations, but they’re not necessarily able to keep up on all of the new EPA laws or changing local regulations like a CPESC must.”

Although the landscape contractor does not typically undertake a residential project that disturbs one or more acres of land, commercial projects usually do. Even though the landscape company is a sub-contractor on a commercial project and the SWPPP permits were required of the general contractor, understanding and complying with erosion and sediment control is equally important for all companies involved with the project.


Kathryn A. Navarra is a landscape industry professional based in New York. She is also an accomplished author and freelance correspondent with more than 200 published articles to her credit. She can be reached via e-mail at


For additional information about CPESC certification visit or call 828-655-1600. More information about the requirements of the Stormwater Pollution Protection plan can be found at www/


All photos courtesy of Profile Products LLC.