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Major unique new study shows infrequent inspections lead to greater stream pollution

Chapel Hill -- Mayflies, dragonflies, stone flies and caddis flies can't take the witness stand in court, of course, but they can provide strong evidence of how well or badly construction workers follow sediment pollution prevention rules, a unique new environmental study shows.

The giant "disturbance" study, conducted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists, revealed that builders appear to follow regulations in direct proportion to how well they are policed. If enforcement is slack, chiefly because of too few inspectors, many builders take short cuts that damage water quality. If enforcement is strict and backed by meaningful penalties, they will conform to the rules.

What are needed, the UNC-CH scientists conclude, are enough state and county staffers to ensure that rivers and streams are protected. Among the consequences of not adequately curbing sedimentation are fewer healthy fish, less native seafood and poorer functioning streams.

Drs. Seth R. Reice, associate professor of biology, and Richard Andrews, professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC-CH School of Public Health, directed the research and released results Tuesday (2/13/01). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Science Foundation supported the project with a four-year, $577,000 grant through their Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program.

Researchers monitored benthic macroinvertebrates -- insects and other critters living near and on the bottoms of 17 state waterways -- upstream, downstream and adjacent to construction sites in the N.C. Piedmont. They focused on Orange County, Wake County and the 16-county central Piedmont area known as District Four of the N.C. Division of Land Quality. District Four covers 8,000 square miles.

"Our principal task was to try to understand what made for effective control of sediments from construction sites, and to that end, we also interviewed contractors, developers a
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Contact: David Williamson
david_williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
12-Feb-2001


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