Builders and home renovators are being urged to prevent run-off from polluting waterways and green spaces, with a study by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) revealing 45 percent of respondents spent more time in public spaces in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DPIE survey also found that 71 percent of respondents appreciated local parks more now than before the pandemic.

Local councils, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and DPIE will be conducting a month-long advisory program titled ‘Get the Site Right’, that will educate builders and renovators on best practice erosion and sediment controls. The education and compliance campaign will be run over May , with a follow-up one-day inspection blitz of building sites across Sydney and the Hunter Coast to be held on Thursday, 20 May 2021.

Now in its sixth year, Get the Site Right is a joint program between the Cooks River Alliance, DPIE, Georges Riverkeeper, the EPA, Parramatta River Catchment Group, Sydney Coastal Councils Group, local Sydney councils and Lake Macquarie Council.

The NSW Government’s plan to fund a $16 million COVID-19 stimulus program to help deliver more quality green public space across Greater Sydney provides a further incentive to prevent sediment run-off from impacting our natural spaces.

Sediment run-off usually contains common building materials such as cement, sand and soil. These materials can contaminate water and cause algal blooms that harm marine plants and animals. They can also build up in marine species, such as mussels, and have a dangerous impact on the food chain. Sediment in the water can affect swimming and other recreational activities by causing unpleasant odours and making the water cloudy.

job site rubbish

NSW EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Steve Beaman says there is confusion amongst builders about where sediment run-off goes when it enters the stormwater system.

“Stormwater is rainwater that collects pollutants, including sediment from building sites, as it runs across different surfaces and flows through the stormwater collection network of gutters, pipes and stormwater drains and then directly out to local waterways, untreated,” he says.

“It is different from wastewater which is water that goes down sinks, toilets and drains and is collected in the sewerage system and taken to a wastewater treatment plant.

“That is why it is so important that builders and renovators prevent sediment run-off from leaving their sites to protect local waterways and the surrounding environment.”

Parramatta River Catchment Group Chair Councillor Mark Drury says reducing run-off and improving stormwater infrastructure and planning are two key objectives of the Parramatta River Masterplan.

“Sediment run-off can have a significant impact on our enjoyment of swim sites, foreshore parks and other green spaces,” he says.

“Repairing and maintaining stormwater infrastructure due to blockages from run-off can also be very costly for councils and Sydney Water so we’re working closely with them and other government agencies to reduce sediment run-off and other source pollution.”

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.