Expanded building site inspection blitz across NSW timely with forecast of more wet weather

 An example of good silt control to prevent erosion and sediment run off on a building site
An example of good silt control to prevent erosion and sediment run off on a building site

Erosion and sediment controls at building and construction sites across NSW will be put under a compliance microscope this May as the Get the Site Right education and compliance campaign expands into six new council areas.

Blue Mountains, Fairfield, Goulburn, Lithgow, Shellharbour and Wollongong Councils, and WaterNSW will join an existing Get the Site Right taskforce that includes the Cooks River Alliance, Department of Planning and Environment, Georges Riverkeeper, NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Parramatta River Catchment Group, Sydney Coastal Councils Group, and more than 20 Sydney councils, including Bayside Council, Campbelltown City Council, City of Canterbury Bankstown, Fairfield City, Georges River Council, Liverpool City Council, Sutherland Shire Council, and Wollondilly Shire Council in the Georges River catchment.

The campaign launched by Parramatta River Catchment Group in 2016 aims to educate builders and developers on best practice erosion and sediment controls and highlight the impact of sediment laden runoff on our waterways and wildlife.

The growth of the campaign is timely in the wake of the recent significant rainfall and flooding experienced across parts of NSW, with more wet weather forecast in the coming months.

Already, an unprecedented amount of stormwater runoff including sediment from building sites has flowed into the state’s rivers, harbours and beaches. 

The sediment laden runoff from building sites often contains common building materials such as cement, sand and soil. In large amounts, these materials can contaminate water and cause algal blooms that harm marine plants and animals. They can also build up in marine species and have a dangerous impact on the food chain.

The May campaign focuses on encouraging builders and developers to improve erosion and sediment controls on their sites to prevent further runoff from impacting our currently stressed waterways.

Examples of ways builders can manage sediment runoff include, establishing a single, stabilised entry and exit point to prevent tracking sediment off the site, installing sediment fencing correctly, diverting clean stormwater around the work site, and connecting downpipes from guttering to stormwater drains as soon as the roof is installed.

Leaving as much vegetation on the site and street verge as possible during construction, covering stockpiles from rain and wind, and sweeping the footpath and road every day and not hosing sediment into stormwater drains can also have a positive impact with little cost or time commitment.

NSW EPA Director Operations James Goodwin said the discoloration and pollution of many of the state’s waterways following heavy rains this year highlights what can happen when significant amounts of soil, litter, and other waste enters our waterways.

“Studies by the EPA show a large building site can lose up to four truckloads of soil in a single storm,”
Mr Goodwin said.

“By ensuring proper controls are in place on their sites, builders and developers play an important role in protecting our waterways and marine life from the harmful effects of sediment runoff. They can also avoid costly building materials being washed away.”

Georges Riverkeeper Program Manager Beth Salt is thrilled that more local councils and Water NSW are taking part in the campaign.

“Stormwater runoff causes most of the pollution in our urban waterways and controlling sediment runoff from building and construction sites is a simple and very effective way of combatting the problem.”

The Get the Site Right campaign will run throughout May with a one-day inspection blitz on Thursday, 19 May. A follow-up inspection blitz week will be held in October.

Members of the public are encouraged to report pollution incidents, including poor sediment control, to their local council or the EPA’s 24/7 Environment Line on 131 555.

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