The May 2021 drive of the Get the Site Right campaign, which enforces best practice on jobsites to ensure waterways remain clean, has found that there is more work to be done in educating builders and renovators on the importance of essential erosion and sediment controls in order to prevent runoff entering our waterways.

Supported by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), 21 councils across Sydney and the Hunter Coast took part in the month-long campaign. Officers inspected 762 sites with 67 percent of those found to be compliant. 

While the results show a 7 percent reduction in compliance from the October campaign, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions and an additional 166 sites inspected in May compared to October accounts for the reduction. 

A total of $383,167 in fines was issued to building sites that didn’t meet the standards. Offences ranged from significant sediment tracking off the site, concrete slurry washed into stormwater drains to building supplies being stored on public land. Litter, such as cigarette butts, plastic bottles and food packaging, was also found on many sites, including several, large residential housing estates.

The EPA inspected four large infrastructure building sites with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and 15 concrete batching plants within the Sydney basin, as well as joint inspections with some councils.

The EPA’s inspections generally found plants to be stopping water pollution but a small number of operators needed improvements to their practices, including upgrades to aggregate storage bays and better stormwater capture and treatment. The governmental body will follow up with further regulatory actions and inspections to ensure sediment control practices are addressed.

NSW EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Steve Beaman says ensuring builders and renovators are educated in keeping waterways healthy was key to improving compliance rates.

“Many builders and renovators think that sediment and building products going into the stormwater drain won’t have much of an impact,” he says.

“However, the sediment from even a single building site can damage local streams and waterways, and when this action is replicated hundreds of times on building sites across the region, it can have a significant environmental impact.

“Get the Site Right is a great way for Councils and the EPA to educate the building and construction industry about the impacts this sediment runoff has on the environment and to discuss ways in which they can stop sediment leaving building sites in the first place.”

Parramatta River Catchment Group (PRCG) Chair, Councillor Mark Drury, says he is encouraged by the ongoing collaboration between catchment groups, councils, the EPA and DPIE to address the important issue of keeping waterways clear.

“We’re grateful to our member councils and NSW government agencies for their continued commitment to initiatives such as Get the Site Right that assist us in delivering our plan to make the Parramatta River swimmable again,” he says.

The Get the Site Right campaign is a joint program that has been in effect for the past six years. It is a joint program between the Cooks River Alliance, DPIE, EPA, Georges Riverkeeper, Parramatta River Catchment Group, Sydney Coastal Councils Group, local Sydney councils and Lake Macquarie Council.