Creeks in Sugar Creek are being polluted by erosion from Abraham Mallinson Elementary, says a resident with a long involvement in stream preservation efforts.
Bill Haman said erosion is causing sediment deposits each time it rains in creeks north and south of the school’s 23-acre site at 709 N. Forest Ave.
And although the contractor and Sugar Creek officials say efforts continue to get it under control, Haman is not satisfied.
This run-off, Haman says, is preventing the growth of invertebrates – like insects and crayfish – along the creeks that run alongside Silver Lane through Kaw Field, 905 Claremont, and begin just west of Mallinson Elementary. These two creeks have a confluence just east of Sterling Avenue on Elizabeth Avenue and flow into the actual Sugar Creek, west of Sterling.
The invertebrates are the basis of an ecological food chain, said Haman, a graduate of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Stream Dynamics School and previously a Stream Team captain through the Missouri departments of Conservation and Natural Resources. He remembers when the creeks teemed with wildlife – great blue herons, turtles, minnows, snakes. But now the creeks are virtually barren of any ecosystem.
“I just want the creeks to be clear again.”
Haman wrote to Sugar Creek Public Works Director Ed Layton in August 2013 about the problem. He described the months of excavation work that created two new hills along Forest and Gill streets. He described mud washing down the steep hillside and out of a culvert into the creek on Elizabeth. And he wrote that a stormwater detention basin was “poorly designed and has been ineffective in preventing eroded material from reaching the Harrison Park Fork.”
He was especially critical of contractor JE Dunn, which, he wrote “first tried to use wood chips to control the erosion. That control measure was a complete failure during the first major storm. Silt fences were then installed with little or no effect.”
Layton says action has been recently taken to resolve the erosion problem.
“They (JE Dunn and the Independence School District) have done things,” Layton said on June 13. “If you (have) seen that terrain, it’s a difficult area to drain due to high hills. It will take some time to get grass growing.” He also added that he, along with JE Dunn Construction representatives, surveyed and assessed the Mallinson site June 11, and was told that both the contractor and district have taken the erosion problem into consideration since “day one.”
Layton also said that the main priority to prevent run-off from going into the nearby creeks is to get grass growing in order to “slow those ruts (caused by erosion).”
“They seeded that hillside four times, but as soon as it was seeded, we went into a drought.”
School District Director of Facilities Bob Robinson in an e-mail, “Our district has been working diligently to minimize mud erosion taking place in the area near Mallinson Elementary School.”
He said the district is working with JE Dunn and the district’s engineer, and possible solutions include adding rock check dams and reinforcing silt fencing to make it more stable, “even during heavy downpours.”
Robinson said the erosion would dissipate once grass has taken root and completely covers the area. “We have taken many steps to expedite this process, including hydroseeding and sodding some areas. Because of the steep terrain, continued heavy rainfall can hinder the growth process and we have now overseeded multiple times,” he said.
Jude Willoughby of J.E. Dunn Construction, project manager of Mallinson Elementary, said he discussed “all kinds of ideas” with an earthwork contractor this past Friday to prevent run-off from reaching the creeks.
“Additional silt fences, rip raps, straw/hay bales,” he said. “Different erosion control methods that Missouri Department of Natural Resources typically uses to control (erosion).” Willoughby added that he is analyzing the suggestions and will present to the district soon. “(It) should respond fairly quickly.”
Haman suggested that either William Chrisman or Van Horn high schools should sponsor a Stream Team so students can monitor the recovery efforts and document the progress achieved by the recovery measures. “This team should monitor the creeks for a minimum of 10 years.”
“I am in no way against the construction of the elementary school in Sugar Creek,” Haman wrote to Layton. “I am sure it will be a proud asset of this community for many years to come. I am, however, quite frustrated that J.E. Dunn Construction and the Independence School District have shown almost a total disregard for the natural resources they have destroyed by their actions.”