What’s a silt fence?

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Silt fences are temporary barriers used to trap sediment during soil disturbance. They may be required by law for certain projects and require regular maintenance. The fence consists of mesh fabric and posts, and multiple fences may be needed for runoff control. Clogging and collapse are common issues, and other sediment control tools may be necessary. Proper installation is important, and building inspectors can ensure compliance.

A silt fence is a barrier to temporarily trap sediment during times of soil disturbance such as construction. The law may require people to install silt fences for certain types of projects, or they may be strongly encouraged, depending on the type of project and environment. Once the fence is in place, regular maintenance is required to keep it in good working order. For permanent sediment control, other measures are more appropriate.

The silt fence consists of a thick mesh fabric stretched between posts positioned downstream from the site where soil disturbance will occur. People must partially fill the upstream section of the fence to aid in sediment filtration, and a series of fences may be needed to control runoff. Silt fences prevent sediment from entering nearby waterways and can also reduce erosion by keeping fine soils and other materials on a site, rather than allowing them to be washed away with rainwater.

Before any type of soil disturbance occurs, silt fence should be in place. There are several design approaches and it is important to ensure that the fence is firmly in place and positioned appropriately. When multiple fence nets are needed, they should work well with each other to prevent sediment loss. People can also design the fence to create things like sediment filter ponds, allowing suspended particles in runoff to seep to the ground before water flows through the fence.

Once in place, a big problem with a silt fence is clogging. The mesh will slowly fill with fine particles and flooding may occur as the water gets trapped by the fence and then spills over. Fences can also collapse under the pressure of water, mud and other materials, allowing runoff to escape freely. Rips and tears in the strong fabric can also occur, especially if a fence is left on for too long. On sites with high sediment production, a simple silt fence may not be sufficient to control the problem and other sediment control tools may need to be employed as well.

Construction companies should either install a silt fence before starting the job or hire a fencing company to do it, depending on their experience and needs. Building inspectors can examine the fence to ensure it is appropriate for the setting and to confirm that the installation is sturdy. If there is a problem with the silt fence, the company may be subject to fines and an order to have it redone.

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