Toxic runoff a big concern

by Janine Little

A REDLAND Shire Council environmental team will probe reports that more than 80 per cent of local building sites have failed to take adequate precautions to stop toxic materials running off into Moreton Bay.

Environmental consultant Mark Rigby said soil disturbed by development and containing poisonous chemicals like paints, glues, termite sprays, insecticides and plastics was being washed by rains into stormwater drains and carried to the Bay.

He told Council at a special presentation that the majority of housing construction managers were failing to abide by controls designed to prevent such runoff.

Mr Rigby said a survey had shown 84 per cent of local building sites had unsuitable runoff containment measures.

He said soil runoff from building sites was "probably one of the most underrated pollutants in terms of the smothering of sea grass and what it brings (into the waterways) with it".

His presentation to Council also pointed to Council workers being "just as liable" as private building workers in ensuring soil runoff was adequately controlled.

Mr Rigby told the meeting how Council officers issuing infringement notices on offenders often could not enforce laws made under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 effectively in the local setting because site managers took warnings and disregarded them.

"What we also found was it's no use talking to them (on construction sites) about fines because 92 per cent already knew what the fines were ... although only 34 per cent complied with the Environmental Protection Act," he said.

Mr Rigby's environmental consulting company completed a survey called Erosion and Sediment Control on Residential Building Sites that covers 11 south-east Queensland Council areas.

The survey found "a distinct lack of knowledge / apathy and confusion in how to implement sediment and erosion control measures on site", according to Mr Rigby's report.

His report also provided Council with recommendations for dealing with the problem.

These included an education program focusing on what building workers have to do on site, development of kits for distribution among builders, and stronger action by Council in following through infringement notices with fines and prosecution.

Wildlife Preservation Society Bayside Branch Secretary Simon Baltais said his organisation had been "telling Council for years" about the soil runoff problem.

"I'm not surprised at all by this new study. We've even raised particularly bad spots in the Redlands three or four times in some cases with no action taken," Mr Baltais said.

"Unless Council is prepared to put words into action we'll continue to see degradation on the western side of the Bay as has been well documented in many reports," he said.

Bayside Bulletin December 7, 1999 Page 3.

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