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Sediment Police Search For Different Kinds of Criminals

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CARY — The Triangle's construction boom has increased the potential for polluting our waterways, but some people are trying to prevent that.

The sediment police check sites for dirt runoff that threatens wildlife in rivers and streams. "It is the biggest pollutant in the North Carolina waters," explained Tom Horstman, erosion control supervisor.

Normally, the state checks for erosion control problems on its own, but there has been so much construction in the Triangle that a number of communities likeCarydo it on their own.

"If you have a lot of growth in the area, then you've got a lot of development going on, and you've got a lot of potential for site sedimentation," said Horstman.

In Cary, there is a team of three erosion control officers that checks sites for items including silt fences, vegetation that holds dirt in place and, on bigger sites, retaining ponds where tons of sediment collects.

"If you look around the edges, you can see a lot of sediment that has accumulated in it. The idea is that the sediment settles out here in this location before it gets down here in the stream," explained Horstman.

Cary erosion control officers say they rarely have to fine anyone.

"The biggest fine we've ever had probably was $6,000 a day," said Horstman. "We've found that fining is not as good a motivator as a stop work order."

The work for the erosion control officers can pile up quickly. Cary's three-person team is responsible for monitoring 175 commercial and subdivision sites.

A number of other Triangle communities have erosion control teams including Raleigh, Durham and Wake County.


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