Erosion and sediment control

Stormwater runoff from building sites is a major contributor of sediment and other pollutants to the region's waterways. This is a significant concern given Mackay's high level of construction activity.  When allowed to enter our waterways, sediment (soil, sand, silt and mud) washed from urban areas can cause both short and long term problems to aquatic flora and fauna within neighbouring aquatic ecosystems. It has the capacity to fowl fishes gills and benthos, inhibit trophic interactions such as predator / prey relationships and photosynthetic processes, induce algal blooms and other exotic weeds and can cause coral bleaching within the Great Barrier Reef. These negative flow-on effects have the ability to adversely impact the livelihoods of people residing in the region, including the tourism industry.

In 2012, Mackay Regional Council introduced an Erosion & Sediment Control Compliance Program (ESCCP), aimed at local development sites, building sites and council projects, in the construction phase of development. The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM), Reef Catchments (Mackay Whitsunday Isaac) and other industry representative bodies have supported Councils program.

The ESCCP consists of three phases:

1. Education

Various workshops have already been conducted for consultants, contractors and council officers involved in the design and construction of erosion and sediment control systems required for new developments. Audit training at development and building sites has also been undertaken.

The guideline document entitled "Best Practice Guidelines for Controlling Stormwater Pollution from Building Sites" has also now been completed.

2. Encouragement

Council staff have commenced ESC audit inspections at development and building sites. Further audit inspections are continuously ongoing to ensure recommendations from site visits and the best practice guidelines are being implemented on site.

3. Enforcement

Where there is evidence of continual non-compliance, Penalty Infringement Notices (PIN) will be issued. PIN's carry a $5692 fine.

Builders and home-owners have a legal responsibility under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, and the subordinate Environmental Protection (Water) Policy (2009), to minimise or prevent environmental harm. If you don't take appropriate erosion and sediment control measures, you may be subject to receive on-the-spot fines.

Under section 440ZG of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 a person must not:
(a) unlawfully deposit a prescribed water contaminant
(i) in waters; or
(ii) in a roadside gutter or stormwater drainage; or
(iii) at another place, and in a way, so that the contaminant could reasonably be expected to wash, blow, fall or otherwise move into waters, a roadside gutter or stormwater drainage.

(b) unlawfully release stormwater runoff into waters, a roadside gutter or stormwater drainage that results in the build up of earth in waters, a roadside gutter or stormwater drainage.

Under section 319 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 a person must not:
(1) carry out any activity that causes, or is likely to cause, environmental harm unless the person takes all reasonable and practicable measures to prevent or minimise the harm (the general environmental duty).

The guidelines entitled "Best Practice Guidelines for Controlling Stormwater Pollution from Building Sites" have been prepared to provide the building industry with best practice measures for controlling stormwater pollution from building sites. The guidelines are specifically developed for low risk urban developments involving the construction of 6 or less dwellings or involving disturbance areas of less than 2500m2.

By following these best practice guidelines, builders in the Mackay region will be doing their part to ensure that runoff generated from their building site does not cause damage to the region's waterways and in turn, minimises the risk of environmental harm and the potential associated fines.
Some of the benefits to homeowners, builders and the building industry include:

  • All-weather site access
  • Improved wet weather working conditions
  • Sites do not get boggy
  • Lest mud and dust problems
  • Reduced stockpile losses
  • Reduced clean-up costs
  • A better public image
  • More marketable sites
  • Fewer public complaints
  • Reduced risk of fines
  • Better fishing for everyone

The ESCCP aims to ensure that construction sites achieve best practice in erosion and sediment control, which will ultimately result in the improved health of downstream waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.