Dewatering the Right Way

Warm and seasonably stormy is the predicted weather pattern for the summer of 2024. With storms comes rain and that means dewatering may be necessary on construction projects in order to continue work. Dewatering may also be necessary due to groundwater or nearby natural resources. No matter the reason, dewatering will likely occur at some point during the life of a project and it is an environmental “hot spot.” Improper dewatering techniques can lead to polluting nearby environmental resources through direct discharge or through a storm sewer system. Discharging sediment-laden water is the most common issue seen during dewatering activities and it can harm surrounding ecosystems. Nuisance condition discharges are not only damaging to the environment, but they also violate regulatory requirements. It is critical that during construction, activities operators use appropriate dewatering methods, adhere to regulatory requirements, and implement monitoring methods to mitigate potential risks.

Completing the following three steps during dewatering will help ensure that your project stays in compliance and it is done the right way. First, develop a plan. Identify what the site conditions are, what area needs to be addressed, how much you need to pump, and what are the surrounding site conditions. This will help you decide a dewatering method that will be both useful and compliant. At this time, it is also important to obtain any necessary permits, submit plans to owners or regulators, and identify any other items that may be required before you begin work. The second step is to outline a process. This is where you put your plan into place. As the operator, you need to identify the who, what, where, when, and how.

How are you going to move water from where it is so you can continue work? What erosion and sediment control measures are you going to utilize so you are not discharging dirty or contaminated water from your project? Who is going to be in charge of monitoring and documenting the operation to ensure it remains in compliance with regulation requirements? It is important to review these questions ahead of time to ensure you have properly prepared your dewatering process. The third step is to document everything and clean-up. Documentation is critical while you are dewatering on your project. It is a permit requirement, but it also allows you to show your process, progress, and compliance throughout the operation. Finally, ensure to clean-up any materials or waste before moving on from this work.

Dewatering can be a high-profile environmental activity during construction. Planning ahead, communication, and documentation is key during the operation. It is also important to stop and evaluate the site conditions often to ensure the activity is compliant with permit and regulatory requirements. All of these points will help the project be successful and continue in a positive direction.