Building site pollution

Pollution from building and construction sites is regulated under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act). Under this Act it is an offence for anyone to let any substance other than rainwater enter a waterway including the stormwater system. The Council and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) can issue notices and penalties on building and construction sites to protect the environment.

Benefits of preventing pollution

Benefits to the builder

  • a better looking more saleable site
  • reduced clean up costs
  • less mud and dust problems
  • improved occupational health and safety on site
  • money saved due to reduced stockpile losses
  • improved drainage and reduced site wetness which will result in less down time, earlier completion and earlier sales
  • fewer public complaints
  • no fines, no problems with Council
  • better image within the community
  • marketing advantage to win work from environmentally conscious clients

Benefits to the owner

  • Reduced site rehabilitation/landscaping costs because the soil and vegetation is still on the site
  • Peace of mind knowing that their home hasn’t caused damage to the environment
  • Less chance of flooding as the stormwater drains are not clogged up with sediment

Benefits to the community

  • less risk of flooding
  • healthier waterways with more plants and animals
  • better fishing due to improved water quality
  • increased recreational opportunities in and around our waterways
  • increased sales as surrounding environment is more attractive

How to prevent building site pollution

Step 1: Plan for pollution prevention

Prepare a soil and water management plan, also known as a sediment and erosion control plan. This will be required prior to Council issuing you a construction certificate, either at the development application (DA) stage or as a condition of consent.

The soil and water management plan should outline the methods you will use to prevent pollution of the stormwater system throughout the life of the construction period. There may be different controls needed as the site develops due to changes in drainage patterns and location of building materials. These stages and their controls must be shown on your soil and water management plan.

Sample soil and water management plans are available from Council, however you must develop a plan specific to your site.

Step 2: Install soil and water controls

Before work commences, install the site signage provided by Council and ensure that all workers know their responsibilities. Set up the soil and water controls. A recommended sequence for doing this is:

  1. Establish a single stabilised entry/exit point.
  2. Install sediment fence(s) along the low side of the site.
  3. Divert up slope water around the work site and stabilise channels.
  4. Clear only the areas necessary - fence off no go areas where vegetation is to be kept - and plan the staging of work to minimise the amount of soil exposed at any time. Revegetate any areas that will be left exposed for more than 14 days.
  5. Store stockpiles on site and place sediment controls around them. If storage room is not available on site, seek Council approval for an offsite storage area with pedestrian access and appropriate soil and water controls.
  6. Stabilise exposed earth banks (use vegetation or erosion control mats, put sediment fence down slope).
  7. Install onsite waste receptacles (mini-skips, bins, wind proof litter receptors).
  8. Commence building activities.
  9. Install roof downpipes prior to frame inspection.

Step 3: Maintain soil and water controls

Soil and water controls should be checked daily to ensure that they are operating effectively. Maintenance that will be required includes:

  • Removing sediment collected by sediment fences and catch drains
  • Topping up the gravel on the stabilised entrance way
  • Repairing erosion in drainage channels
  • Inspecting roadways and gutters and sweeping up any sediment

Remember that the soil and water controls may need to be modified if the slope and drainage paths are changed as the site develops. Best practice includes anticipation of risks as well as being prepared for abnormal circumstances and emergencies, e.g. storage of clean up materials and extra sediment fence on site just in case.

Step 4: Finalisation of site

Ensure the site is stabilised - i.e. no exposed soil remains - before removing the soil and water controls. If landscaping is not completed prior to handover ensure that the new owners are aware of their responsibility to prevent pollution from entering the stormwater system.

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Page last updated: 12 Nov 2018