Water Pollution

The development of land for towns and cities has significant impacts on the water cycle. There are many causes of water pollution such as sediment, urban water run off and industrialisation.

It is important to report pollution incidents by telephoning 02 4974 2000.

The problem with sediment

Sediment is a major pollutant of Newcastle's waterways. Large amounts of sediment in our creeks and rivers can have a range of negative impacts on waterway health, biodiversity, scenic amenity, commercial and recreational activities. Removal of this sediment also incurs a large cost to Council and the community.

Sediment may include clay, silt, sand, soil and gravel. Much of the sediment that ends up in our creeks is from residential sources, primarily building and construction sites, areas of bare soil, uncovered stockpiles, top dressing of lawns and un-mulched garden beds.

The impact of sediment on our waterways

  • Increases water turbidity, reducing light penetration and affects photosynthesis in aquatic plants and algae
  • Clogs the gills of fish
  • Smothers habitats and bottom dwelling creatures
  • Heavy metals, nutrients and other chemical compounds attach to sediment particles transporting these materials downstream where they can enter the food chain
  • Blocks drainage lines increasing the likelihood of localised flooding
  • Reduce the aesthetic value of waterways.

Planning for erosion and sediment control

All builders and developers are required to prepare an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan showing how they will minimise soil erosion and trap sediment that may be eroded from the site during construction.

Newcastle City Council has developed an information pack to assist you in developing the plan.

 Planning for erosion and sediment control (PDF)

 A guide to understanding erosion prevention and sediment control (PDF)

New compulsory signage for construction sites

Prevent pollution signage is a condition for all development.

The signage must be displayed on the development and be clearly visible to the public. It explains the legal responsibilities of the builders and sub-contractors to prevent water pollution and increases community awareness of this growing problem.

Builders and Contractors must erect and maintain erosion silt fences and ensure that none of their materials or waste enters the stormwater system.

The penalties for pollution

It is against the law to pollute water or place pollution in a position where it could be blown, fall or leak into a drain, gutter or waterway. Polluting stormwater can result in on-the-spot fines or legal proceedings.

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, owner-builders, builders and landscapers are directly responsible for preventing sediment and construction wastewater leaving a building site.

It is everyone's responsibility on-site to prevent pollution and all employees and contractors have a legal duty under the Protection of the Environment Operations
Act to notify their employer of a pollution incident or the potential for pollution to occur.

Good erosion practices benefit everyone

There are many benefits from effective on-site erosion prevention, including:

  • Reduced on-site clean up costs
  • Improved drainage on-site and reduced mud problems
  • Cleaner site providing improved working conditions, especially in wet weather
  • Better presentation to the public
  • Reduction in the number of complaints by the community
  • Improved water quality and amenity in our waterways
  • Reduced impact on aquatic ecosystems and improved stream health
  • Less sedimentation in our waterways and a reduction in the cost of removing this sediment
  • Improved waterways for surfing, fishing, boating and other recreational activities.

A Business Pollution Prevention Plan can help

Developing a Business Pollution Prevention Plan for your business can support you in your day-to-day operations, identifying resources that can be used more efficiently and practices that can save you time and money.

Further information

The Enviroment Protection Authority has produced more detailed environmental information for builders and other industries with a series of information sheets called Solutions to Pollution.

Contact Details

  • Newcastle City Council 02 4974 2000
  • Enviroment Protection Authority pollution line on 131 555

Acknowledgements

Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust (2001) Guidelines for Erosion and Sediment Control on Building Sites, Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust, Windsor, NSW

Environment Protection Authority (1998) Solutions to Pollution/Us - Environmental Information for Builders, EPA, Chatswood, NSW

Brisbane City Council (1999) Erosion and Sediment Control on Residential Building Sites -Stormwater Pollution Prevention It's Up to You pamphlet, Brisbane City Council, Brisbane, QLD.