How to Prevent Job-Site Water Contamination

Follow these steps to keep chemicals out of storm drains.

Heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum products and trash all pose a health risk to the public when they’re washed off the job site and into storm drains. Storm-water drains generally dump the water they collect directly into lakes, rivers or the ocean, so fuel spills travel with rainwater and can end up in fisheries and swimming areas.

The EPA mandates that builders working on larger job sites create a storm-water pollution-prevention plan to detail how the builder will contain soil erosion and prevent chemical runoff from the job site.

While best management practices such as silt fences are needed to keep soil from washing into storm drains, chemical and petroleum spills and contamination can often be prevented with a little effort and training.

Here are a few ideas for preventing water contamination by job-site chemicals:

  • Always apply the minimum amount of fertilizer suggested by the manufacturer, and be sure to work the fertilizer into the soil to prevent it from being washed away.
  • Properly store and label all chemical and petroleum products to prevent accidental spills or leaks.
  • Keep chemical-spill and oil-spill kits on the job site at all times. This spill kit should include rubber gloves, goggles, a broom, a dustpan, rags, a mop, cat litter and durable metal and plastic trash containers.
  • Keep an eye on all vehicles on the job site, and clean up any oil leaks or gas spills immediately with your chemical- or oil-spill kit.
  • Report chemical or fuel spills that are large enough to reach the storm-water drain system to the National Response Center.
  • When concrete is being poured for concrete slab construction, use a drip basin to catch any concrete spills. Also, never let concrete trucks wash out their drums or dump excess concrete onto the job site. Concrete should be disposed of in a certified area.
  • Never allow anyone to pour leftover chemicals, paints, plasters, glues or fuels down storm drains.

Even though federal and state regulations may not apply to a smaller builder, everyone benefits from cleaner waters and a healthier environment. Making sure chemical spills are properly contained and cleaned up can also reduce the chance of future lawsuits or complaints from the homeowner. Larger builders who fail to contain chemical contamination to their site can face large fines and risk work delays for inspections and testing.

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