Grindstone Creek YouTube video gets DNR's attention

Thursday, June 18, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:53 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 2, 2009
Also present at the Maguire Boulevard extension site during the investigation on Wednesday were, from left, construction project manager David Bugg and Public Works inspectors Jim Thaxter and Veneet Kapila. Visible in many of the photographs are elements of what Bugg describes as BMPs, or best management practices, construction strategies used to control water flow and silt runoff, such as silt fences (black plastic barriers), rock berms (rock levees layered with dirt and straw) and sediment basins, where eroded silt is able to settle into controlled pools of water.

COLUMBIA — Scott Wilson doesn’t think of himself as a rabble-rouser. He was just curious how the recent rainfall was affecting Grindstone Creek at a city bridge project.

Wilson, a videographer known for recording local bands, went to the $8.25 million Maguire Boulevard extension site and shot video of water and sediment pouring into the creek. The video showed evidence of erosion from the heavy rain that had fallen hours earlier.


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Wilson uploaded the video on YouTube, which he he refers to as the “soil of democracy,” and sent the link to the city and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The city's Public Works Department promptly e-mailed him back, acknowledging the video, and a state Department of Natural Resources inspector showed up Wednesday morning.

The rain at the beginning of the week dislodged some of the silt fences and collapsed part of a rock berm put in place to keep sediment out of Grindstone Creek.

The standards for stormwater control are designed to deal with up to 1 inch of rain in 24 hours; Sanborn Field at MU recorded 2.13 inches on Monday.

Vineet Kapila, a city construction inspector for the Maguire Boulevard project, said he inspects the site once a week as well as after each significant rainfall.

After Wednesday's visit, state inspector Matt Sperry gave the city and its contractor, Emery Sapp & Sons, seven days to replace silt fences that had been dislodged and update paperwork on its plans to control runoff.

“I can’t cite you for the water level being up,” Sperry told city officials. “I can cite you for the (stormwater prevention plan) not being updated and silt on the other side of the fences.”

Sperry said his official report will detail all of his findings. Overall, he said, “It could have been a lot worse.”

The Department of Natural Resources relies on citizens to alert the agency to potential problems, Sperry said. 

“With a bridge project, there’s always the potential to impact the stream,” he said. “It’s just trying to minimize that impact.”

Kapila told Wilson in an e-mail on Tuesday that he was “aware that Grindstone Creek had flooded.” Once water levels returned to normal, Kapila said, the site would be inspected and the contractor would be told what corrections would need to be made.

Sperry said he found “nothing extreme” during his inspection. “The unfortunate thing about nature is you can’t control it,” he said.

Construction Project Manager David Bugg of Public Works said the city has gone beyond what it must do to minimize the impact of the bridge project. He pointed to the numerous berms and detention basins sprinkled throughout the project site. And when it rains like it has, he said, there’s only so much the city can do.

“People take videos of a creek overflowing its banks and want to say it’s major erosion,” Bugg said.

Wilson doesn’t buy the flooding excuse.

“Every time we get 2 inches of rain and a creek gets swollen, that’s a flood event?” he said.

Although Wilson said he knows the corrections will be made, he’s tired of apologies and fixes after the fact. “The astonishing thing is, if they were up to spec, then what are we going to do, because it doesn’t work,” he said. “This is a city project, and it should be a flagship for protecting these streams."

At the beginning of May, members of the City Council, along with Public Works Director John Glascock and City Manager Bill Watkins, inspected the same area after Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe expressed concerns about significant silt being swept into the Grindstone Creek. She also expressed frustration with the state's standards for controlling runoff.

At the time, Glascock said the department had stepped up its erosion control as well as assign a staff member to monitor the process across the city.

Wilson said he’s eager to see the findings from the state inspection, but he said it may be that he’s learned a disappointing lesson: growth, infrastructure and automobiles outweigh the quality of streams and drinking water.

“When you enjoy the natural beauty of Columbia, I don’t care what the specs say, I don’t care what the regulations say,” he said. “When you see a site like this it makes your heart go, damn.”

To see all of Scott Wilson's videos, go to his YouTube page here.

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Charles Dudley Jr June 18, 2009 | 5:07 a.m.

On any bridge project after the main support pillars are set in place and even before serious soil anti erosion measures need to be taken.

One of the best way is the placement of large boulders/rocks called "rip rap" to slow any soil erosion that might take place with the filling in around those large rocks with smaller rock to help filter the soils being effected. Also the placement of jute mesh,grass seed and good old fashioned straw or hay under the rock over lay helps more than can be imagined.

Engineers in this state could learn alot more if they would research soil erosion techniques from other states. This looks to be a serious issue no matter what new construction site I see in this area. Those little staked out barriers do not do squat in a huge rain besides look pretty.

California comes to mind as a a state that deals with these issues on a massive scale yearly.

(Report Comment)
W. Arthur Mehrhoff June 18, 2009 | 10:14 a.m.

Charles Dudley makes an excellent point about the need to look at best practices from other states or regions in dealing with soil erosion in this very hilly region of Missouri. I happened to see an episode of Garden Smart on KMOS a couple months ago that featured some very simple yet highly effective techniques pioneered in Chattanooga, Tennessee for mitigating soil erosion and even reclaiming damaged sites. The link to the Garden Smart show is and the 2007 episode was entitled Show #19/806 - New Landscaping Ideas From Chattanooga, if folks are interested. There's also a brief video clip [] that offers a glimpse of some of the reclamation projects.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 18, 2009 | 10:22 a.m.

It is nice you are in agreement.

(Report Comment)
Barbara Wren June 18, 2009 | 8:03 p.m.

I live on a bend of the Hinkson. The silt and "builder's sand" has filled in a once deep pool in our backyard that makes it more dangerous for recreational kayakers since they now get hung on the manmade island. The last flood event the water came at least twenty feet closer to our house than the record highwater mark and left dunes of sand and asphalt that are considered pollution. The Mayor and GetAbout want to put three more bridges just past our property that may cause back up flooding and more environmental damage to a suffering watershed environment. Between the continuously rising and more constant swift water digging out the banks, we are losing trees along the bank at an alarming rate. We keep planting trees further from the bank, but they will not ever catch up to the glorious ones that are being lost after surviving many generations. It may look like dirt to some, but it is really dangerous pollution.

(Report Comment)
Liz Mitchell June 20, 2009 | 7:05 a.m.

Anyone who has spent any time in Mid Missouri knows that spring and summer can bring torrential rainfalls of far in excess of a single inch within a 24-hour period. Why the standards for protecting our streams don't match this reality is a mystery to me. As Mr. Dudley notes, it's not for a lack of technology or techniques. We have a lot of construction projects in Columbia. The North Providence Road extension has had similar problems. Should we not adopt the best practices known to prevent damage to our watershed? Thank you, Scott Wilson, for bringing this problem to light!

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