Social Distance your BMPs (Lessons from COVID-19)

Updated: Mar 31

As a society, we are becoming more aware of the importance of keeping a safe distance during the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19. Distance has been a vital key for "flattening the curve". Here at Tully Group, we thought that there were some distancing applications that could apply to Stormwater Management. So with that said, let's talk about a few BMPs that need proper distancing!

Some common operations that require a 50-foot distance from storm drains, drainage facilities, watercourses, and flowlines include:

  1. Solid Waste Storage Areas and Containers e.g. Dumpsters

  2. Concrete Washouts & Operations

  3. Portable Toilets and Handwash Stations

  4. Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance Areas

  5. Stockpiles

This distancing allows room for error if a leak or spill were to occur. Remembering these distancing guidelines can save you time and money, reducing the cost associated with non-stormwater discharges. In addition, depending on what jurisdiction you are in, this distance could be greater than 50-feet. There are several projects where this distance is increased to 100-feet.

Spills from these operations that discharge into a waterway or drainage inlet are considered a non-stormwater discharge and are taken very seriously. Serious fines and mitigation can result from a spill that is not promptly addressed and cleaned. Any and all spills should be documented, and the appropriate SWPPP Inspector, QSP, and QSD should be informed as soon as possible.

Below, we've listed some examples to demonstrate the inappropriate distancing of common construction practices...

Dumpsters & Solid Waste Storage

This dumpster is leaking and in close proximity to a drainage location.

This spill must be cleaned and the dumpster relocated at least 50-feet away from the drainage inlet.

In general, solid waste needs to be contained in a leak and spill-proof container and serviced often. These containers shall be located 50-feet away from flowlines, inlets, and water bodies. Hazardous waste must be disposed of per Specifications.

Concrete Washouts

In this picture, we see Concrete operations and a spill occuring less than 50 feet away from drain inlet.

This operation should be cleaned, materials kept in secondary containment and covered when not used, concrete washout installed and used per specifications, and relocated to a location away from inlets, to name a few corrective actions.

Portable Toilets and Hand-wash Stations

This portable toilet pictured was tipped over and was placed directly next to a flowline.

This spill should be properly cleaned, the portable toilet serviced and properly secured, and relocated away from inlets, waterways, and flow lines.

Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance Areas

Excavator heads, concrete/metal waste, and a fueling station were not in secondary containment in addition to being located next to a flow line and within a ponding area along the project perimeter.

Dedicated maintenance and fueling areas should be protected from stormwater run-on and run-off, and be located at least 50 feet away from flowlines and potential ponding areas.


In this situation, an uncovered asphalt stockpile is less than 50 feet away from a flowline.

These stockpiles should be located 50-feet away from a flow line/waterway/inlet, placed on plastic, and covered and bermed if not in use. The paved areas should be swept to clean the spill.

Waste in this picture should also be removed and disposed of properly. And, the dirt and rock stockpile addressed per the county regulations.

Why do we have these distancing guidelines? It's honestly a similar concept to social distancing during this pandemic. By distancing these materials and equipment away from water bodies, the pollutants are less likely to move and spread to our water bodies and cause harm. Similar to how we should keep social distance to prevent harmful germs from going from one person to the next.

All of the operations mentioned above have the potential to greatly pollute our water, especially during rain events. It could be oil leaking from a vehicle, sediment coming from an uncovered stockpile, and human waste coming from a tipped portable toilet. Keeping these operations at a safe distance from any drains, watercourses, or flowlines is vital to prevent any stormwater pollution. Of course, our first line of defense is always placement and installation of said BMPs following proper SWPPP guidelines.

So with doctors and public health officials telling us to increase our social distancing, consider taking these same recommendations into account when placing your BMPs in your construction area!

If you have questions about a situation on your site, please don't hesitate to reach out to our Tully Group Team at (707) 693-1926 or email

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