Water pollution can occur in gutters, stormwater drains, creeks, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans. Water pollution is a contamination of waterways which can result in the destruction of habitat for fish, other animals and plants. The Burdekin waterways discharge to the Coral Sea and water pollution may have a negative impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
Individuals pollute water by littering (including cigarette butts), pouring oils down drains, washing cars, cleaning paint brushes and using chemicals on their gardens. These pollutants (prescribed water contaminants) are then washed or blown into stormwater drains and local waterways, causing harm to natural ecosystems and reducing the quality of the water essential for use by people and industry.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 it is an offence for any person to deposit or release certain materials into a roadside gutter, stormwater drain or waterway. It is also an offence to place materials where they could reasonably be expected to move or be washed into a roadside gutter, stormwater drain or waterway.
Offences may include an on-the-spot fine to the value of 15 penalty units (individual) or up to 75 penalty units (corporation) or prosecution.
The Department of Environment and Science may be contacted for significant pollution events including fish kills in excess of 50. Telephone: 1300 130 372 (press option 2) or visit their Contact Us web page for additional contact details.
Further Information on the following is available on this page:
- Prescribed Water Contaminants
- Building Sites
- Mobile cleaning and trade businesses
- Roof cleaning and restoration
Prescribed Water Contaminants
Prescribed water contaminants include pollutants such as chemicals, oil, paint, animal matter, plant matter, rubbish, sewage and wastewater from outdoor cleaning processes.
In Queensland, materials which are prescribed as water contaminants under the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008, Schedule 9 are:
- a chemical, or chemical waste containing a chemical, for example:
- biocide, including herbicide, fungicide and pesticide
- chemical that causes biochemical or chemical oxygen demand
- chemical toxicant for which guidelines are prescribed in the document ‘Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality’
- degreasing agent
- a gas other than oxygen
- a liquid containing suspended or dissolved solids
- a liquid that has a temperature different by more than 2°C from ambient water temperature
- animal matter, including dead animals, animal remains and animal excreta, and water used to clean animals, animal enclosures or vehicles used for transporting animals
- ashes, clay, gravel, sediment, stones and similar organic or inorganic matter
- a substance that has a pH outside the range 6.5 to 8.5
- building and construction materials, including bitumen, brick, cement, concrete and plaster
- building, construction and demolition waste, including bitumen, brick, concrete cuttings, plaster and waste water generated by building, construction or demolition
- clinical waste
- glass, metal parts, paper, piping, plastic and scrap metal
- industrial waste
- oil, including, for example, petroleum or vegetable based oil
- paint, paint scrapings or residues, paint sludge, water used for diluting paint or washing painting utensils, and waste from paint stripping
- plant matter, including, for example, bark, lawn clippings, leaves, mulch, pruning waste, sawdust, shavings, woodchip and other waste from forest products
- putrescible waste, including, for example, food scraps
- sewage and sewage residues, whether treated or untreated, and any other matter containing faecal coliforms or faecal streptococci, including, for example, waste water pumped out from a septic tank
- vehicles and components of vehicles, including, for example, batteries and tyres
- waste and waste water, generated from indoor cleaning, including, for example, waste from carpet or upholstery cleaning and steam cleaning
- waste and waste water, generated from outdoor cleaning, including, for example, waste generated from high pressure water blasting of commercial or industrial premises, fuel dispensing areas, plant or equipment, roofs, streets, vehicles and wharves
- waste generated from repairing or servicing motor vehicles, including, for example, engine coolant, grease, lubricants and oil
- waste water, including backwash from swimming pools, condensate from compressors, water from air-conditioning or cooling systems and waste water from grease traps.
Water contamination poses a serious impact on the environment. Builders and developers have obligations to prevent the deposit or release of sand, sediment, silt, rubbish or building materials into gutters, stormwater drains and waterways from building sites.
What builders and developers need to do?
- Install and maintain sediment fences to control runoff
- Place gravel sausages to reduce material entering stormwater drains
- Have adequate waste containers available
- Build waste containers on site by using geotextiles and rope to enclose waste
- Empty waste containers and clear other waste storages on a regular basis
What are some common building site deficiencies?
- No establishment of a stabilised entry/exit point
- Unnecessary site disturbance (such as parking or driving on exposed soil)
- Failure to divert upslope water
- Failure to install sediment controls such as sediment fences or turf strips
- Delays in connecting downpipes to stormwater drains
- Incorrect sitting of stockpiles
- Failure to install and/or maintain adequate drop inlet sediment traps.
Run-off from roads, drains and gutters causes poor waterway quality and can be harmful to fish and wildlife.
Mobile cleaning and trade businesses
Mobile cleaning and trade businesses can help stop pollutants like detergents, oils and pesticides entering our stormwater system.
This information will help you if you operate:
- pet hydro bath or mobile dog washing units
- car washing
- carpet cleaning
- steam and high-pressure cleaning
- brick and paver cutting
- aggregate driveway laying
- roof cleaning or recoating
Ways your business can help
- Where wastewater consists only of soil and organic matter (no oil or chemicals) it is suitable to dispose of waste water into a garden or grassed area.
- Wastewater containing any oil or chemicals must be collected by an appropriate regulated waste company. For permanent situations, approval from your water authority must be obtained for waste to be disposed of via the sewer system under a Trade Waste permit.
- Use sandbags or a portable bund to prevent waste water from entering drains.
- Sweep up all waste material rather than hosing down.
- Avoid using detergents, oils, pesticides or chemicals near drains, gutters and waterways.
- Work on a grassed or gravelled area away from drains, roadside gutters and waterways.
- Use a bucket to collect waste water for reuse or proper disposal.
- Store all detergents, solvents, oils or any other chemicals in a secure area.
- Collect all waste and use a licensed recycling operator or disposal facility.
- Clean up spills or leaks using dry absorbent materials such as kitty litter, rags or a bund.
- Use as little water as possible, or use trigger hoses where necessary.
- Ensure all staff are aware of their environmental responsibilities.
Roof cleaning and restoration
Wastewater from roof cleaning can flow directly into our creeks, rivers and waterways.
Roof and gutter downpipes connect directly to roadside gutters, stormwater drains and into our waterways. This means wastewater run-off from roof cleaning ends up in our creeks, rivers and the ocean. Pollutants, such as oxides, algae, paint flakes, concrete and sediment can kill seagrass, aquatic plants and marine life. By taking some simple precautions when cleaning and restoring roofs, you can help protect our waterways.
In addition, using water blasters on asbestos cement roofs is illegal. Cleaning a fibro roof with a high pressure water blaster is illegal as it can destroy the roof surface, cause cement debris or asbestos to spray into the air, and result in widespread contamination.
Protecting the environment
We all share the responsibility of keeping our waterways clean and must ensure only clean water enters out stormwater systems. Below are some options that you could use when cleaning:
- if possible, disconnect downpipes and redirect wastewater to the garden, or to a holding tank for disposal by a licensed liquid waste disposal contractor
- if disconnecting downpipes is not possible, block the downpipe and feed the wastewater onto lawns or gardens
- hole may be drilled in the gutter or downpipe, the downpipe blocked (below the hole) and water diverted to garden beds. When complete, the hole can be plugged with a grommet
- use sandbags or a portable bund (a barrier to contain water) in the roadside gutter to protect stormwater drains from accidentals spills and runoff.
Other helpful tips
- Always keep a spill response kit, including a shovel, broom and rags, to clean-up residues nearby. Do not wash or hose remaining waste material into the stormwater drain.
- Keep cleaning times to a minimum.
- Be aware that wastewater from some houses may drain directly into a nearby waterway or subsurface stormwater pipe (not to a roadside gutter). In this case, downpipes must be disconnected and the water drained to a soakage area, such as, the garden or lawn.
- If wastewater does accidently drain to the stormwater gutter, remove all captured wastewater as soon as possible using a vacuum or bilge pump and direct to lawns or gardens, making sure no wastewater flows into the stormwater drain.
- Sandbags and portable bunds in the roadside gutter will capture accidental spills and runoff. They are not designed to hold wastewater from a full roof clean.
- For business owners, please ensure all of your staff are aware of these requirements.