The Auckland Regional Council is warning building contractors and developers to ensure their actions don’t impact on the environment. During the past 18 months the ARC pollution hotline received more than 2000 complaints, 25 per cent of which were caused by the construction industry. This number’s expected to increase over the next few months as the building and construction season reaches its peak over summer.
ARC pollution response team leader Rowan Carter says it’s time contractors and developers realise their actions have an impact on the environment and improve working practices. “Often a degree of ignorance is involved. Many don’t actually understand that washing concrete, sediment and paint into a stormwater drain results in that pollutant entering the nearest stream or beach,” says Mr Carter. “Unfortunately there’s also a level of arrogance out there. Some people don’t care where the waste from their site goes.
He says the three problem pollutants from construction activities are cement, sediment and paint and plaster, with concrete the most toxic. “Washing out concreting equipment can result in environmental damage. It can take a stream five to 10 years to fully recover. Thirty per cent of all the fish kills reported in Auckland streams are due to cement and concrete wastewater,” says Mr Carter. “In the Auckland region, it’s estimated more than 60,000 tonnes of sediment also enters our streams, lakes, estuaries and harbours every year. This has a huge impact on our freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems.”
Mr Carter says workers need to keep their waste on their site. They should implement silt control and designate an area on their site, away from the stormwater system, where they can wash equipment. They also need to contain rubbish within bins so it doesn’t blow away.
ARC environmental management committee chairwoman Dianne Glenn says more awareness about the effect of construction activities on the environment will go a long way to improving the region’s waterways. “It’s very disappointing that in just four years the ARC has seen a 600 per cent increase in pollution incidents it attends that relate to cement and concrete activities.”