On any worksite, your main concerns are keeping everyone on your team safe and your project moving in the right direction. However, there’s another force continually at play on the worksite: environmental regulations.
Sometimes, remaining environmentally compliant is a greater challenge than the job itself. The best defense against fines and noncompliance? Documentation.
With environmental preservation more important than ever before, anything compromising falls under a watchful public and governmental eye. Luckily, there’s some really great tools out there to help you stay compliant, one of them being drones. By regularly surveying your worksite with drones and layering your aerial datasets, you build a holistic, visual record of what goes on between flyovers.
Using progress data, you can catch and eliminate environmental violations before they snowball. Whether you’re moving impacted dirt or working alongside environmental officers to analyze runoff, documentation keeps conflict at bay and projects underway.
Let’s explore some of the environmental pain points that visual recordkeeping alleviates.
When heavy rain hits your site and bounces off impervious surfaces like asphalt and concrete, it runs into local waterways, carrying all the pollutants it picked up along the way. That free-flowing, tainted water is the runoff we’re talking about.
Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), the discharge of stormwater from your site must be strategic, channeling it away from local streams, wetlands, lakes, and rivers.
In order to start or continue development, you need a CWA permit. To obtain a permit, you have to submit a long list of site characteristics and a plan to mitigate erosion.
The thing is, collecting this information requires expert personnel and that type of expertise comes at a high price.
Building out a treatment plan requires extensive knowledge of the terrain and how stormwater flows naturally, without any structures in the way. Then, continuous monitoring as your worksite evolves.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a landfill or construction site, orchestrating the proper drainage system is the only way to stay on your environmental officer’s good side.
However, runoff is near impossible to observe from ground level. The trail it leaves can be too slight to spot, especially when you’re moving material around all day long.
Drones give you a bird’s-eye view of your site from above. With up-to-date aerial images, you can pinpoint exactly where stormwater’s pooling and how the earth’s eroding around it.
Once you upload your dataset to the Propeller Platform, you have all the information and visuals you need to come up with a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP).
Post-planning, you can monitor how runoff is impacted by additional progress and what areas may be most affected.
Propeller also allows you to quickly share your 3D site maps with the environmental stewards you’re working with to maintain total transparency.
Solid and Hazardous Waste
It’s no secret that the waste itself, and deciding how to dispose of that waste in a nonintrusive way, is an ever-growing problem for the world.
Recycling and repurposing are the only lines of defense we have against the egregious mass of waste we produce each year—a mass equating to 3.5 million tons.
Unsurprisingly, there’s some pretty harsh substances out there that are integral to most earthwork operations.
For landfills, they’re constantly monitoring the condition of the cell liner to prevent leakage. For mines, tailings are the problem, while construction’s dealing with organic solvents, flammables. and corrosives. Our point here is, waste disposal is a part of every worksite’s life cycle.
To moderate this, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) procured a long list of hazardous materials and the right way of disposing of them.
Hazardous waste has the potential to affect both the environment and your team’s wellbeing. . Exposure to hazardous waste puts your team at risk and comes paired with safety violations.
Infrequent surveys aren’t getting you the data you need to regulate hazardous waste disposal.
Your entire staff—whether they’re in the field or in the office—receive safety training, but with everyone working different jobs, in different areas of the site, it’s hard to make sure they’re carrying what they learn through to their day.
When you layer aerial datasets, what you get is a complete and measurable timeline of what’s happening on site.
Since each drone survey is timestamped, you know exactly when hazardous material was transported, introduced, or dealt with on site, and you can audit how the materials are processed through visual observation.
If there’s a problem with waste handling, you can timestamps with your schedule to determine who was working and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Sometimes, dirt has already been contaminated and it has nothing to do with your site’s operations. Pesticides and petroleum seep into soil. Contaminates can continue to spread during earthwork.
This can also occur on landfills and mines, where byproducts are inherently hazardous and ecological impact is inevitable.
Unfortunately, if you’re building on impacted land, you inherit that contaminated soil. From that point forward, you’re responsible for how it’s moved and how your earth movement influences the surrounding ecosystem.
“The big thing is trying to keep all the material on-site without having to export it. There’s a lot of concern with export on [reclamation jobs] because . . . they don’t want any material leaving for environmental reasons.”Richard Tyndall, Survey Director at Petillo
You also become liable if you decide to transport the soil elsewhere. Even if you weren’t aware of contamination, you’re still on the hook.
You’re starting to build or excavate a site with contaminated soil, and a local environmental representative is asking for regular updates and reports on how you’re moving the soil.
You’re trying to move material tactically so all the contaminated soil remains on site, but you have a sneaking suspicion that there’s going to be dirt left over that has to be removed to get the right grade.
Imagine being able to get real-world measurements on your material movement straight from your drone data? In-platform tools make this a reality for our customers.
You can upload design documents to measure progress against design, giving you the data you need to decide if any contaminated soil needs to be transported offsite.
In just a few clicks, you’ll have stockpile measurements at your fingertips, showing you exactly what dirt’s moved where and when that movement occurred.
Individuals in the waste management and mining space are no strangers to reclamation. When you reclaim land you’re minimizing (or sometimes reversing) the ecological impact of their daily operations, and then repurposing the land after decommission.
Even though reclamation is the final step in the life cycle of mines, landfills, and other natural resource extraction, it’s something you must consider when development plans are in their infancy. In order to successfully reclaim land, you must consciously be working toward remediation the entire time the site is active.
Reclamation is the act of responsibly managing everything we’ve talked about here—impacted soil, hazardous waste, drainage—to revert land to pre-exaction or pre-waste conditions so the land can be redeveloped and reused, free of health hazards. As soon as a site’s decommissioned, restoration begins.
While you’re restoring and repairing, you’re subject to severe environmental scrutiny and working with a development entity to figure out what their requirements are for the new build.
Although you can guess how long your site will be active, you can’t predict the end of life with any certainty. In other words, you’re at the mercy of guesswork and loose approximations.
Before you can start drilling, excavating, or dumping materials, the EPA demands a concrete plan for land reclamation. So, how do you devise a reliable roadmap without an exact lifespan?
The answer: progress tracking. No, you still won’t be able to pinpoint decommission down to the day, but with progress data, you’ll have updated numbers showing you exactly where you’re at.
With a better idea of how far you’ve come, the more precise you can get with how far you have left to go. Using drone data to fuel a 3D replica of your site, you can make cut/fill measurements to estimate extractable material or volume calculations to keep tabs on airspace.
Go a step further to upload reclamation design documents and site plans to the Propeller Platform to compare against your latest aerial images.
Historical data is the visibility you need in a game you’re used to playing blindfolded.
Let up-to-date aerial data be your site’s superpower
The takeaway here is, you’ve got a lot on your plate already and remaining environmentally compliant is an extra stressor.
Compliance is only a single piece of the ever-changing worksite machine, but it can end up taking up more time and energy than other concerns like completing your project on time, managing material movement, and maximizing compaction.
The data collected during drone surveys feeds an objective, all-seeing record of what’s happening on site. Progress data alleviates reclamation pains, while 3D models help you analyze runoff behavior.
When you upload your data to Propeller, you’re tapping into a single solution that hits environmental concerns from many angles. Propeller is the worksite data gateway that keeps your team informed, projects moving forward, and environmental conflicts minimal.
Still not convinced? Here’s ten other things Propeller gets you post-survey (beyond environmental recordkeeping).
Want to learn more about how Propeller works? Let’s talk.