When considering the myriad of design, permitting, and construction activities associated with transmission and utility-scale pipeline installation, the placement of waterbars in the field is typically not an operator’s first concern. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) has recently initiated an enforcement action that may change that. 

When a pipeline is completed and fully stabilized, the original applicant is responsible for terminating the associated earth disturbance permits. As part of this closeout process, PA DEP representatives visit the site to verify proper stabilization and post-construction stormwater features are in order. Waterbars have become a primary focus of these inspections. 

Typically, a waterbar is designed to divert water away from running parallel with an existing pipeline right-of-way. These vegetated, earthen berms ultimately reduce the possibility of accelerated erosion and potential slope or earthen failures. Per PA DEP guidance, waterbars must be built at a two percent cross slope and discharge to well vegetated areas, and they must be spaced according to the PA DEP Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control Manual. 

Recent PA DEP inspections indicate these guidelines were not always followed in many of the early construction efforts, and some waterbars were installed with incorrect slopes and spacing. PA DEP is requiring resolution to these issues, which often comes with the high price of unanticipated permitting and construction.

RETTEW has worked closely with several operators recently to evaluate the existing conditions of their waterbars, and we are communicating with PA DEP to discuss options. Please reach out to RETTEW to share your experiences and help us develop an industry-wide solution.

Contact Jeremy Burger, Senior Program Manager/Midstream Manager at jburger@rettew.com or 610-554-7330.