Nov. 21, 2011 04:38

Equipment Helps Control Erosion

Controlling erosion, stabilizing the soil, hydroseeding, installing silt fences, controlling sediment and more is what we in this industry are trained to do. We worked under NPDES regulations, which kept us on our toes and made us more knowledgeable with how to deal with those regulations. They were exciting days.

Then came Phase II of the NPDES. How many of you can remember when that kicked in? It was six years ago, yet it changed our whole way of thinking. What Phase II did was open the door even wider for more work.

Prior to Phase II, the regulations required that if you were working on a five-acre parcel of land or larger, you needed to adhere to the NPDES regulations. When Phase II went into effect, the requirement dropped from five acres to one acre. Any property of an acre or more had to comply with the NPDES regulations.

About that same time, the housing market was heating up. Developers, builders and land owners were all jumping on the bandwagon to build homes, and build they did.

What an opportunity for us to capture this business. Developers and builders didn’t build one or just a few homes, they went all out and began to build housing tracts—some consisting of hundreds of homes. It was good for us because each development required our services and skills.

After all, to comply with Phase II of NPDES, each new development required installation of silt fencing, construction of berms to control the topsoil from blowing away, and a myriad of other essentials to be in compliance. The home building market was sizzling and the builders wanted their projects done in quick-time, so they could sell the homes and cash out.

This, in turn, spurred some manufacturers to develop new tools, or improve on the equipment they had, to make the contractor and his crew more efficient. That, in turn, would make them more productive. These improved products couldn’t have come at a better time.

In addition, the EPA had become more active and began enforcing the regulations, and along the way they added even more. With the EPA being more diligent, if the project was not in compliance, you were fined, which added additional costs to the project.

Times were hectic; jobs were coming in at a good pace. It was— and still is—of utmost importance that when you bid a job, you figure it right. If you’re too high, you won’t get the job; if you’re too low, you could lose your shirt. It‘s easy to factor in all the material costs and overhead and G & A (general and administrative expenses.) What is most critical are the labor costs. If you miscalculate the labor costs, you can end up losing money on that job.

However, one way you might be able to offset the miscalculation of labor is by using the latest equipment. One of the reasons why it’s important to use the newest equipment is that it will help you do the job more efficiently and effectively.

Because it’s important for contractors to equip themselves with the best possible tools for the job at hand, being aware of what is currently available goes a long way toward ensuring that your business is operating at its most efficient and productive level.

Much of the equipment used in our market is highly specialized, and comes in various shapes and sizes. Here are a few you might want to consider.


Hydroseeders come in a wide variety of sizes, especially tank size. You can get a hydroseeding machine that can fit in the back of your pickup truck with a small 150gallon tank, to one that has its own small trailer that you pull behind a vehicle, to one that is mounted on a large truck and has a tank capacity of 4,000 gallons.

The configuration of this equipment may vary. Usually on the larger pieces of equipment, there is a walkway where an operator can stand and spray the material. Some of the smaller hydroseeders use jet agitation, while on the larger sizes, mechanical agitation is preferred.

Although the hydroseeder itself is not new, the equipment has improved greatly in recent years.

The most improved feature of modern hydroseeders is their speed. Nothing lays down plant material as quickly as a hydroseeder.

Mulch blowers

Another piece of equipment that came on the scene some years ago is the mulch blower. This piece of equipment has proven to be highly successful for certain uses. It can apply a large volume of mulch in a very short period of time.

Mulch makes a great complement to hydroseeders or other types of vegetative erosion control measures, as it acts as both a stabilizing agent and protection for seedlings. It prevents erosion in other ways, too, by reducing stormwater velocity and runoff, and protecting the soil. Perhaps the greatest asset of mulch is its flexibility.

Mulch blowers provide a fast and efficient way to lay down mulch over a large area. Large scale mulch blowers are typically built on semi-trucks. They can feature dust suppression systems, on board water tanks, and seed injectors.

Straw blowers

Smaller blowers are also available that spread both straw and bark mulch. These smaller blowers funnel straw into a fan that blows the mulch across a desired space. Straw blowers multiply your productivity by putting down more straw in a fraction of the time it takes to apply by hand. This is a most efficient way to ensure soil moisture retention and protect against erosion damage to freshly seeded areas.

Straw mulch can also be mixed with tackifiers to ensure that it stays where it’s sprayed. These types of blowers are available as stand-alone equipment, but are also available as attachments for skid steers.

Bark blowers

A versatile performer, the bark blower delivers high production bulk material handling with quality results. Bark blowers can increase crew productivity by up to 500 percent.


Steeper slopes can benefit from mulch blankets and mats. These woven sheets serve the same purpose as organic mulch, but are significantly heavier and more dense.

The EPA notes that these products can provide up to a 99.5 percent reduction in soil losses on properly covered sites, making them great for covering areas with lots of loose soil.

Erosion control blankets are another option for steep slope control. Mainly, these sheets are composed of compost, and function similarly to mulch blankets. Laying these sheets has become easier with the introduction of roller attachments for skid steers. These attachments place compost blankets on a spindle, and allow the operator to roll the material out quickly over large areas.

Silt fencing

Installing a silt fence used to be a tedious job. You would trench out the area where you wanted to install the silt fence, and hammer a stake in the ground every 10 to 15 feet. You would then get a roll of plastic (making sure you left enough of the material to get in the ground) and staple it to the stakes, and finally, you would then backfill the area.

The actual fences are available in a variety of different materials, but should be synthetic. According to the EPA, synthetic fences have a life span of around six months, depending on the conditions. Burlap fences, in addition to being less effective, only last for two months.

Silt fencing machines have made a tedious job much easier. These machines automate both the trenching and laying process, shortening the time that it takes to install fences considerably. These machines attach to skid steers. A plow blade on the attachment slices into the ground as the skid steer pulls it along. Fabric is pulled into the trench as the machine moves along, laying the fence automatically.

Perhaps more importantly, silt fence machines are consistent. Simply select the depth at which you’d like to lay your fence and the machine should lay at that depth perfectly. This is incredibly useful in bad weather conditions, when laying fence any other way could prove difficult.

Other equipment keeps popping up in the market. Filter socks can now be easily filled and placed by a skid steer with the appropriate attachments. The skid steer attachment allows filter socks to be filled quickly across difficult terrain, while the attachment forces compost into the sock.


The right tools are key for any craftsman. Using machines, rather than working by hand, assures that your crew will not only do a better quality job, but they will do it faster. Getting a job done quickly and not sacrificing quality makes you more competitive in your bidding process.

Take advantage of it.

Also in Soil Erosion News

In many ways, we are fortunate that, in our chosen profession, we are able to help people when certain disasters occur: the tornadoes in Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Georgia, the flooding in Louisiana, the snows in the northeastern part of the country, the rain in California, and the snow in Colorado....

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