Rich McLaughlin Awarded for Environmental Excellence

Researchers standing in a group with award trophy

The International Erosion Control Association (IECA) recently announced the winners for its environmental excellence awards at the 2020 IECA Annual Conference and Expo.  Crop & Soil Sciences’ Rich McLaughlin received the Environmental Excellence Award that is IECA’s most prestigious award. This award recognizes an outstanding stormwater and erosion and/or sediment control or stormwater management project, program, or operation that demonstrates excellence in natural resource conservation and environmental protection.

A Champion of Natural Resources

Protecting our surface and groundwater resources from pollution is a major emphasis in Crop & Soil Sciences. One of the most widespread water pollutants is sediment, which can originate from farms, construction sites, and streambank erosion. 

I am honored to have the engineers, scientists, and other professionals with IECA recognize the contributions of the work we’ve been doing at NC State

Rich McLaughlin has been with NC State Crop & Soil Sciences for over 27 years. “My program is focused on improving water quality by reducing the movement of soil from developed and developing areas,” Mclaughlin said.  “Our projects include testing existing practices, such as sediment traps and inlet protection, to determine how efficient they are in removing sediment. We are also testing new systems and devising alternatives to current practices. In addition, we are investigating methods for improving vegetation establishment and soil properties in lawns, buffers, and landscaped areas in order to reduce the amount of runoff and improve water quality.”

He was surprised to hear his name called at the recent awards presentation. “My group has been focused on reducing the environmental impact of construction site stormwater for more than 20 years, adding many new practices to the toolbox of professionals tasked with dealing with this issue.  I am honored to have the engineers, scientists, and other professionals with IECA recognize the contributions of the work we’ve been doing at NC State and presenting at their conferences and workshops.”

The Home for Required DOT Training

McLaughlin co-teaches SSC 421 Role of Soils in Environmental Management and serves as an advisor to several soil science graduate students.  He also heads up NC State’s Sediment and Erosion Control Research and Education Facility (SECREF) at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory. It is home for NC State’s training and certification programs for erosion and sediment control.  

After adopting many of McLaughlin’s new practices, the NC Department of Transportation began in 2007 to require Erosion and Sediment Control Certifications for all workers involved in erosion and sediment control on DOT projects and asked NC State to provide the training.  More than 14,000 certifications have been awarded since then. 

Group of soil students observe a sediment basin
A dye is used to demonstrate the beneficial effects of proper sediment basin design.

One big advantage to SECREF’s training is that participants get to see and try out a variety of practices used to control erosion and sediment on construction sites.  Muddy flows can be generated and sent into ditches and ponds to show how different devices work. Workshop attendees always comment on how helpful these field demonstrations are.  McLaughlin is currently using videos of these demonstrations as a substitute for the labs in his (now online) 421 Role of Soils class.

McLaughlin also leads training events on construction site stormwater management as well as erosion and sediment control in collaboration with the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the IECA. 

A group of soil students observe muddy water in a ditch
The effects of check dams treated with a flocculant to remove sediment are demonstrated.

Excellence Every Day

Interested in learning from a distinguished faculty member like Dr. Rich McLaughlin?  His public workshop and training program schedules are available for online registration. If you are an undergraduate student who is interested in soil science and in protecting environmental quality, consider our Natural Resources: Soil, Water, & Land Use degree.  In Crop & Soil Sciences growing the future starts by protecting what we have.