Building sand from construction sites can be contaminated with cement and metal cuttings as well as paint, plastics, rubbish and mulch.
When this sediment is flushed by rain or runoff into drains and local waterways, it introduces harmful nutrients, chemicals and hydrocarbons from road surfaces, which causes water pollution.
Sediment can severely impact and destroy critical rivers and wetland habitat. The lightweight floating sand can clog the gills of fish as well as block the transmission of light needed by aquatic plants for photosynthesis. The high levels of introduced nutrients can promote toxic algal blooms leading to an increase in mosquito and midge populations. Not only can all these elements cause catastrophic ecosystem collapse, it also negatively impacts our recreational enjoyment of our waterways.
Recent studies by the University of Western Australia have shown that every year, for every hectare of building development, up to 17 tonnes of building sand and other construction-related sediment enters the environment, via storm drains, rivers and waterways. When considering how much land development is happening and planned for Western Australia – there is a lot of potential for sediment pollution!
A local construction site supervisor has been working hard to protect the environment by sweeping sand at a Cygnia Cove building site. Reece Davenport, from local building company Webb & Brown-Neaves, has been sweeping up the sand, keeping the roads and drains clear, and preventing it from polluting nearby drains.
It is the responsibility of builders to ensure all employees and sub-contractors comply with local laws by maintaining a clean and safe worksite and preventing pollution caused by building materials. Despite Mr Davenport’s efforts, he was issued a $500 fine by the Local Government Authority for non-compliance with their Waste Control on Building Sites Local Law, because a visiting sub-contractor was not aware of these legal requirements.
To make sure it didn’t happen again, Mr Davenport has implemented site changes, including creating a dedicated sand laydown area well away from the curb, and created his own hand-written signs. He has also been actively educating all site workers – including bricklayers, builders, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, sand carriers, construction and demolition clean-up crews – about their legal responsibilities.
Given the large number of new properties being built in Cygnia Cove, and its proximity to the Canning River, Perth NRM has been actively approaching builders and site owners about reducing the quantity of building site waste. Sediment Taskforce Program Coordinator Bronwyn Scallan collaborated with Mr Davenport to create and produce new site signs that alert workers to the monetary and environmental costs of sediment pollution. Encouragingly, Webb & Brown-Neaves’ management team have been fully supportive of Mr Davenport’s efforts and encourage others to do the same.
Mr Davenport was recently recognised with an award for best signage, advertising and most neatly presented site – an incentive to encourage all Webb & Brown-Neaves construction teams to consider site presentation, which includes sediment management, along with safety and compliance.
Another site manager, Shane Walsh from Daly & Shaw Building Residential Developments, recently installed the new signage at their apartment construction in Cygnia Cove.
The signs are waterproof, sturdy and can be reused several times at future sites, so are a cost effective and simple communication strategy. They have been used on six building sites within the Cygnia Cove development in Waterford and another two in Wilson (sites managed by builders Webb & Brown-Neaves, Daly & Shaw Building Residential Developments and Trendsetter Building Companies).
It is important to stop sediment at its source and do the right thing by the river. Keeping building sites clean and tidy is not only part of essential occupational health and safety obligations, it can save companies money and improve their public image, while also helping the environment.
Are you keen to part of the “sediment pollution solution”?
To make it easier for building companies to get onboard, Perth NRM is offering free artwork for the signs, ready to print. Contact Bronwyn Scallan, Perth NRM Sediment Task Force Program Coordinator: [email protected]
For further information on managing sediment at building sites, visit the Sediment Management project page.
This project is supported by the Perth NRM Swan Canning River Recovery Project, with funding from the Australian Government. In-kind support is also provided by the Western Australian Government’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and the City of South Perth.