Old House Restorations and Clean Watersheds

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Inspection, Old Houses, Old House Construction, Old House Musings, In The News

I recently wrote about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their new guidelines for dealing with lead paint when working on old houses built prior to 1978. I worked with EPA guidelines on a daily basis for about thirty years, and I’m a little surprised at what I’ve been seeing since retiring from working on other people’s homes to working on my own. The EPA guidelines I’m referring to are for storm water runoff and erosion control measures. I speak from first hand experience when I say that many of the big residential builders feared a visit from EPA inspectors even more than from OSHA. There were rumors of fines being handed out to large builders with multiple offenses in amounts well over $100,000. The EPA could stop all work on a site until control measures were repaired or installed.

Prevent Sediment Runoff--photo from siltfence.org

Prevent Sediment Runoff--photo from siltfence.org

Help Keep Our Watersheds Clean

So what’s changed? In the rural area where I live I see old houses with additions underway, as well as a few new homes and commercial buildings being built. The Shenandoah River is within walking distance of many of these sites, and its waters eventually end up in the Chesapeake Bay. Yet, if I see any erosion controls at all, they are improperly installed or overrun with sediment!

If you’re not familiar with erosion control, it’s the use of materials such as fabric fencing, wood stakes, and straw bales to help prevent sediment from a denuded construction site from running into a watershed. Most jurisdictions have guidelines in place requiring erosion control measures when earth-disturbing activities are taking place, but in many cases sites under an acre in size don’t fall under the guidelines or aren’t held accountable. If you’re doing any work on your old house

Protect Our Watersheds--photo from mygreasy.com

Protect Our Watersheds--photo from mygreasy.com

that requires a decent amount of excavation–such as the foundation for an addition, adding a detached garage or barn, or even putting in a long sewer line–make sure you use some erosion controls to help protect our watersheds. It’s just like recycling: every little bit helps. The EPA has a wealth of information on how to install control measures.

More Old House Holiday Tour News

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is only two weeks away and it’s almost time to get out the holiday decorations; I love this time of year. I have a few more Old House Holiday Tours to add to my previous list. If you happen to be near Virginia, the 31st Old Southwest Holiday Parlor Tour in Roanoke will be December 4-5, 2010, and for fans of really old houses the Plymouth, Massachusetts Holiday House Tour will also be December 4-5.