It is the primary responsibility of environmental inspectors (EI) to function as the first line of defense in protecting the owner from deficiencies in the work performed. This requires the EI to monitor progress of construction and recognize and inform the project team when work is not performed in compliance with the plans, specifications and permits, or when opportunities arise for additional avoidance and minimization. To meet these responsibilities, the EI must possess certain knowledge, skills and abilities:
- Understanding the roles of all involved parties: engineers, inspectors, regulatory agencies, and contractors
- Capability to read and interpret plans and specifications
- Clear understanding of all project-related approvals, permits and other industry standard operating procedures (SOPs) that dictate the intent with which work should be performed
- Familiarity with standard construction practices, including knowledge of both conventional and progressive methods of construction (from stakeout through landscaping), types of equipment, and materials being used
- Experience with wetland and forest assessment and permitting, as well as design and construction of wetland and stream projects aimed toward mitigation and restoration
- Significant experience assessing erosion and sediment control practices
- Demonstrated thorough documentation of activities, events and discussions during construction
- Communication skills to work with the entire project team
Because the EI is responsible for looking holistically at the project, it is their responsibility to ensure that all commitments are addressed, that avoidance and minimization measures during the design and construction process are continually evaluated and documented, and that permit violations do not occur. Recognition by the EI of the implications of not meeting all the project commitments is critical. Failure to meet commitments could result in legal and financial implications and foster poor public or agency relations that may extend to future projects.
While the above procedures provide an excellent framework for the environmental compliance process, additional streamlining and cost savings can be realized through the use of technology-based mechanisms to improve communication and documentation. The technology used for any specific project should be accessible to all stakeholders in order to streamline the transfer of information but should also be secure in order to allow for project-related communication between specific parties including the regulatory community.