Erosion and sediment control for residential building sites

Council is committed to maintaining healthy natural environments. This commitment comes from key strategies and initiatives outlined in our Corporate Plan. To help achieve this goal, Council has established an erosion and sediment control (ESC) program.

Residential building sites have the potential to wash pollutants into the surrounding environment. This may be in the form of sediments such as soil, silt, sand, or gravel, concrete wash-out waste, and general rubbish. These pollutants can wash into local drains, creeks, waterways and the ocean.

About Council's ESC program

The program provides information on:

  • how these measures can be achieved
  • what everyone's obligations are
  • the importance of using complaint ESC measures
  • the penalties for non-compliance.

Through education and awareness, the program aims to:

  • increase ESC compliance
  • raise awareness of ESC compliance requirements
  • reduce environmental harm
  • better protect our natural areas and waterways
  • reduce nuisance and contamination issues on building sites.

Having appropriate ESC measures in place is the law. Council conducts audits and inspections of building sites as part of the program.

Who is affected by the ESC program

The program affects everyone involved with building homes. This includes builders, contractors, and homeowners. Everyone in Queensland has two duties that they must follow:

  • a general environmental duty
  • a duty to notify of environmental harm.

These duties are set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

Principal contractors (house builders) must use best practice ESC measures on all properties. This includes vacant land under their control. Refer to the State Government for more information on meeting environmental obligations and duties.

Preventing building work from polluting waterways

Pollution of our waterways is preventable by well-thought-out planning and appropriate site management.

Builders must install compliant erosion and sediment control measures before starting ground-disturbing works. These control measures are to remain in place until handover.

New homeowners

Some homeowners may receive the keys to their new home before turf and landscaping works are finished. After handover, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure soil and sediment does not move off their property.

Homeowners will need to install and maintain ESCs, such as a sediment barrier until the ground has been covered. Bare soil can be covered with grass, no-fines gravel, mulch, or geofabric.

Homeowners should:

  • inspect and maintain existing ESC measures until the landscaping is stabilised.
  • not remove existing controls left by your builder unless they are unsafe. Unsafe erosion and sediment control measures must be replaced within forty-eight hours.
  • cover bare soil with a ground cover even as a temporary measure. It is best to use mulch, no-fines gravel, turf, vegetation, or geofabric. This will protect the soil from rain and prevent erosion.
  • make landscaping works a priority and aim to finish as soon as practicable.
  • be sure to remove any pollutants that may wash onto the verge, footpath, gutter, or roadway.

You may need to apply for a permit to conduct work within a road verge. For more information, contact Council.

Builders and renovators

When building a house, all reasonable steps must be taken to stop harmful prescribed contaminants from moving off-site. This is the responsibility of everybody involved in the building process.

To assist builders, Council has developed waterway protection guidelines to be used in addition to the Water by Design’s ESC factsheet and checklist.

Developers and consultants

It is your responsibility to:

  • set up appropriate control measures and contracts on your project. These measures must outline how to stop pollutants from moving off-site
  • take reasonable and practicable steps to prevent pollutants from going off-site.

To manage your development effectively, you are required to:

  • ensure your ESC plan satisfies your general environmental duty
  • allow for ESC requirements within the development costs
  • conduct daily inspections of the ESC measures that have been implemented on-site
  • inspect ESC measures before and after rain.

Refer to the International Erosion Control Association's best practice erosion and sediment control and Healthy Land and Water's Water by Design ESC factsheet and checklist for more information.

Penalties for water pollution from building sites

Allowing or failing to prevent prescribed contaminants from entering waterways is illegal. This includes roadside gutters and stormwater drainage. Enforcement action may include:

  • issuing direction notices
  • issuing penalty infringement notices (monetary fines)
  • prosecution.

By satisfying your general environmental duty, you can be compliant under the act and avoid receiving penalties. For more information on enforcement action refer to the Environmental Protection Act 1994.