Guidelines Released to Protect the Environment from Construction Site Pollution

Construction and maintenance companies who work in or near watercourses are being reminded today (today) that pollution incidents are avoidable by careful planning.

The call comes as new pollution prevention guidelines are published by the Environment Agency.

Steve Wenham, Technical Advisor at the Environment Agency, said: “In 2006 the construction and demolition industry was responsible for 271 pollution incidents causing environmental damage, of which 123 were to water. Of these, 18 incidents were serious causing significant damage to watercourses.

“These incidents are not only damaging to our environment, but it can leave the responsible company with an expensive clean up bill. Under the law those who pollute our environment have to pay the clean up costs.

“Where there has been serious pollution, the Environment Agency will prosecute which can lead to heavy fines. So following these good practice guidelines will help you reduce the likelihood of an incident and such action. The guidelines offer some simple steps companies can take to assess the potential impact of their work and identify preventative action they can take to protect our environment."

Construction works near watercourses which include lakes, reservoirs and canals can cause pollution by silt, oil and chemical spills. Also poor waste management can have a major impact on the water environment – for example, improper storage of hazardous wastes like oils and solvents could lead to it escaping into water.

The new Pollution Prevention Guidelines (PPG) provides advice, useful references and links relevant websites on topics such as:

  • Pollution Prevention Planning – most pollution incidents are avoidable by careful planning.
  • Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS) – controlling surface water runoff.
  • Safe use of concrete and cement – can lead to serious pollution as it is alkaline and corrosive.
  • Oil and chemical storage and use – legal requirements apply on how they are stored.
  • Safe herbicide use – written approval for use near waters is needed.
  • Waste management – advice on Site Waste Management Plans.
  • Pollution incident response – planning for incidents and who to call.

The Environment Agency, which regulates business and industry in England and Wales, has worked together with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Northern Ireland’s Environment and Heritage Service on producing these guidelines.

You can download “PPG5 – Works and maintenance in or near water“ free of charge from here.

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