Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It’s Not Just Dirt on the Road

Riding to work this morning, I was blissed out and sleep deprived from a week of nordic skiing in the Sierra range. All of a sudden, I noticed that my bike tires were sticking to the road, and I was getting sprayed with dirt clods. I was already running late, but I followed the trail of ooze around the corner, to this construction site in my own neighborhood.

Soil that gets spread onto streets by trucks and heavy machinery is called trackout. Trackout can become a big problem around here, because when it rains, the soil particles end up in our waterways. Luckily, there are best management practices available to prevent trackout, and most contractors employ them, to avoid what we see here.

Once in our waterways, soil is a pollutant called sediment. Sediment clogs fish gills, blocks sunlight, and traps heat. It fills spaces in spawning gravel, suffocating fish eggs, and harming aquatic insects and their habitat. It leads to loss of capacity in channels, which can lead to flooding. It’s not just dirt on the road.

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