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Sediment and erosion control - information for the building and construction industry

Why is sediment and erosion control important?

Soil erosion from construction sites causes major environmental problems for waterways and aquatic life. Sediments washed to waterways impact heavily on aquatic flora and fauna and their habitat. Sediments also block stormwater drains, cause waterways to silt up and increase the risk of flooding.

A single building site can lose truckloads of soil in one storm!

Polluting stormwater is an offence that can result
in on the spot fines and legal proceedings.
 

What are the benefits of adopting best practice sediment and erosion controls?

  • Compliance with environmental regulations - in particular those contained in the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 – thereby reducing risk of fines
  • Improved wet weather working conditions, reduced downtime and earlier building completion.
  • Fewer public complaints and a better public image for your business.
  • Reduced stockpile losses and clean up costs.
  • A healthier and safer environment for everyone.

What are my legal responsibilities? 

Developers and builders have a legal obligation to take all reasonable care to prevent soil erosion and sediment loss from construction sites. This also applies to other trades people such as excavators and earthmovers, landscapers, concreters, painters and delivery drivers. Supervisors need to ensure that workers under their control (eg sub-contractors) do not breach environmental laws. 

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations (POEO) Act prosecution and on-the-spot fines of up to $1500 apply to persons who allow soil or other pollutants to enter stormwater drains or waterways, or place materials in a position where this may occur. On the top of this fine you may also be charged a $320 administration fee.

What is Council's role? 

Councils have the power and responsibility to monitor the construction industry, provide information and issue Clean Up notices, Prevention notices, penalty infringement notices and Compliance cost notices. 

What are best practice sediment and erosion controls?

  • Establish a single stabilised entry point (e.g. blue metal/aggregate pad).
  • Install geotextile sediment fence(s) along the low side of the site before work begins (see installation instructions below). Straw bales embedded into the ground can also reduce flow velocity, filter sediments and reduce erosion.
  • Divert uphill water around the building site with stabilised banks and channels. This is especially important on large, steep sites.
  • Minimise the area to be cleared and leave as much vegetation as possible to filter runoff from the site.
  • Stockpile topsoil, sand and other building materials behind the sediment controls. Never stockpile materials on the footpath or road reserve.
  • Install appropriate waste receptacles on site (eg mini-skips, bins & wind-proof litter receptors).
  • Provide a wash down area behind sediment controls for washing and cleaning activities, brick cutting, etc.
  • Connect downpipes from the guttering to the stormwater drain as soon as possible.
  • Fill in and compact trenches immediately after services have been laid.
  • Stabilise and revegetate disturbed areas as soon as possible. Turf strips are commonly used for this purpose, particularly along the kerbside.
  • Check erosion & sediment controls regularly, especially when rain is expected and directly after rain.
  • Regularly sweep and collect material from the road and footpath. Never hose these areas.

How do I know which controls to use for my site?

Each site is different and sediment and erosion control requirements need to be assessed on a site-by-site basis. Council may grant development approval on condition that routine controls are implemented. Otherwise, an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan or Soil and Water Management Plan may be required with your Development Application (DA).

Refer to the publication 'Guidelines for Erosion and Sediment Control on Building Sites'. Additionally, refer to the links on the side of the page for further publications relevant to various tradespeople.

When do sediment and erosion controls need to be in place?

Control measures need to be installed before excavation or site disturbance. They need to be maintained in good working order and repair throughout the construction or development work and until 70% revegetation cover has been established.