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.
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.