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Erosion and sediment control is a serious expense to many contractors. The costs for effective erosion control are disproportionate to the amount of aggravation and problems they create on job sites, especially if products are installed improperly. These problems are receiving more media attention as the federal government tightens the regulations pertaining to sediment runoff and clean water. Many public awareness groups are realizing the impact that sediment has on our streams, rivers, and bays. In March 2003, Phase II of the NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) regulations will start and this has been a partial driving force in the increase in business for River Valley Organics. The current erosion control methods (called BMPs for Best Management Practice) are adequate at best. Silt fence, for example, does not filter out suspended solids in storm runoff water; instead it depends upon ponding water to allow particles to settle out. It is not uncommon to see silt fences either tipped over by rainwater or simply falling down due to improper installation. Traditional erosion control blankets, while helpful, are really only effective once the vegetation has been established. In the winter or dry spells when seed will not grow, traditional blankets have little effect at all. They do however, work well in conjunction with compost blankets and in high-flow situations. Thorough slope stabilization relies on intimate contact of the blanket to the soil surface. Only a "loose" material such as compost is able to achieve this. Unfortunately, many of our current controls are driven by price, not by results. One solution that River Valley Organics has found with the help of Filtrexx International is the effective and economical use of composted materials for erosion and sediment control. River Valley Organics has been able to replace silt fences with more effective compost berms and FilterSoxx. Slope stabilization can be achieved with layers of compost injected with seed, called 'compost blankets.' Compost will hold in sheet flow applications where hydroseeding will fail and soil will run off. This allows erosion and sediment control to be achieved on the first application rather than the repeat applications and higher maintenance often required by more conventional products. We use a technique called terraseeding to establish germination on flat areas as well as steep slopes. The severity and length of the slopes will help to determine the thickness of the material to be applied. Our project was a hillside that had been cleared of trees and vegetation and then graded and seeded. The project was done in early June in South Central Pennsylvania. We have had a very serious drought in this area for a few years and erosion control is not the top priority for many people. Sudden thunderstorms with large quantities of rainfall in a brief period are not uncommon. This is what happened after the slope was graded and major washouts developed, some as deep as 12 inches or more. The seed and straw that had been applied simply washed away. At this point River Valley Organics was contacted and we applied a series of controls to stabilize the slope as well as to establish vegetation as quickly as possible. We started by re-grading the slope and then removed the straw bales and replaced them with FilterSoxx. These are made of screened, large-particle size compost encased in a mesh tube form which allows water to pass through but slows down the velocity and catches any sediment in the stream. It also changes the water movement from channel flow to sheet flow, which is more easily controlled. Once the filter berms and FilterSoxx were in place, we installed a compost blanket. This consists of finer grades of compost with seed directly injected into it at the time of application. Allowing the seed to be planted as opposed to being exposed on the surface is one of the advantages of seeding in this method. The compost is also less likely to erode due to the natural tendency of the particles to mesh together and form an interlocking "blanket" effect. The results were good considering there was a sudden downpour again the day after the compost was installed and there had been no significant rainfall in the four weeks following the project. Where the compost was thicker, the germination was much better due to the ability of the compost to hold more moisture. Shade also made a difference. This slope is south facing and exposed to the summer suns full blazing force. Eventually, when the turf is fully established, the FilterSoxx will be removed allowing the turf alone to maintain the integrity of the slope. Compost can also be used in FilterSoxx to provide inlet protection and as a "bio-log" for stream bank stabilization. Since compost is generally manufactured from recycled waste products like leaves and twigs, it can often be acquired at a reasonable cost. The main difference between the FilterSoxx being used on stream banks, in combination with any option of backfill media, is that the vegetation grows out of the socks and into the banks. At the same time, the backfill, which is also seed injected, grows together with the socks to create a truly sustainable option for this challenging area. As floodwaters rise they deposit sediments before receding. This allows the vegetation to grow up and through the new deposits, creating a more sustainable system. Other technologies do not offer an environment as 'growth friendly' as these systems based on compost. The installed costs of the berms or socks for silt fence replacement are often less than what the costs would be for silt fence, and compost is more effective. For slope stabilization, compost is very cost competitive to higher performing synthetic blankets and it adds to the soil as well as providing a stable and protective area for seed to germinate. But compost is not just compost; quality control and testing of the material to meet certain criteria is a must for good results. River Valley Organics became involved in this business as a result of being a Landscape Contractor. We needed a more efficient way to spread mulches and compost in our day-to-day landscape operations. We eventually purchased a mulch blower truck from Express Blowers Inc. in Eugene, Ore. The mulch blower allows a two-man crew to install an average of 70 cubic yards or more of mulch per day in residential applications. The unit is remote controlled so we can control the application rates at the touch of a button. Damage to plant material was an initial concern of ours due to the high flow of mulch associated with mulching machines, but this proved to be an unwarranted concern due to the sensitive application abilities. Other materials can often be applied at higher rates. Playground mulches, topdressing of lawns and general compost applications are good examples of easy to spread products. A blower truck also enabled our landscape company to incorporate large quantities of compost to our planting beds, resulting in many benefits to the customer. We experienced a reduction in plant losses, an increase in plant vigor, increased disease suppression, improved soil structure, and better water-holding qualities; just a few of the benefits of quality compost when incorporated into the soil. We also found that the blower truck enabled us to increase our net profit margins to around 20 percent for retail mulching work. Being much more productive allowed us to subcontract our equipment and operators out to other Landscape Contractors. This provides landscapers the opportunity to take on extra work without increasing hours or the work force without the large investment in a machine of their own. As a result, net profits are drastically increased and their high-skilled employees can be used to generate higher profit sales as opposed to the lower profit wheelbarrow work associated with hand mulching. This proved to be a whole new business venture and led to the purchase of a second machine a year-and-a-half later. River Valley now is developing a common sense approach to erosion control as an extension of the original mulching business. Eventually, we see erosion control and other environmental applications being a bigger source of income than mulching. All of these projects would not be possible without the help of an extensive team of professionals and experts to rely on for technical support. This is a proven technology that is slowly moving its way across the country. With the help of the Rexius Company, Filtrexx International and strict compost quality control, we anticipate a high demand for this product and service across Pennsylvania. River Valley Organics is a division of River Valley Landscapes Inc. located in Wrightsville, Pa. The company is owned by Brad Groff and Doug Caldwell and has been in business since 1991. Doug has been working with Filtrexx International for about one year. River Valley Organics can be reached at (717) 252-1894 or on the web at

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June 17, 2019, 8:34 am PDT

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