Environmental Management for Road Construction and Civil Earthworks

Environmental Management for Road Construction and Civil Earthworks

Nicolaas Kerkmeester May 12, 2022

Road construction and civil earthworks, including demolition, bulk earthworks and maintenance works, are likely to have environmental impacts. These environmental impacts may include clearing of native vegetation; discharge of sediment or water into nearby stormwater drains or waterways; emissions of noise, dust, or odours that cause nuisance or potential health impacts; the escape of litter; or excavation or importation of unsuitable fill materials.

All of these potential impacts should be considered prior to construction and an effective plan developed to manage impacts on the environment, and other nearby sensitive receivers. 

What are the Environmental Requirements?

Environmental laws and regulations relevant to your road or civil construction project will be depend on the type of works, the location and potential sensitive receivers. In Australia, federal, state and local governments jointly administer environmental protection laws.

During planning for your road construction or civil earthworks project, a legislative review should be undertaken to determine:

1. Implications of the proposed project in relation to Commonwealth, State and local laws

2. Non-statutory approvals requirements such as the Queensland Government Koala Conservation Policy as well as self-assessable guidelines and codes

3. Other obligations required for compliance with legislation such as standards

4. The potential for environmental offsets triggered by the project.

Approval for a construction or civil works project issued by the relevant authority, such as local council or state government, can have conditions relating to the minimisation of environmental harm and local nuisance. A common condition is the requirement to prepare a Construction Environmental Management Plan or CEMP. 

What is a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP)?

A CEMP describes how construction activities will be managed to avoid or minimise environmental impacts. As well as how environmental management requirements will be implemented. A CEMP should be prepared when there is a risk that construction activities could cause environmental harm or environmental nuisance. 

What is the Purpose of a CEMP?

A CEMP describes how the construction activities will be managed to avoid or mitigate environmental or nuisance impacts, and how those environmental management requirements will be implemented.

What is the Content of a CEMP?

A CEMP needs to contain sufficient information to demonstrate that the potential impacts on the environment and surrounding community have been identified, and suitable measures to mitigate those impacts will be applied prior to and during construction. 

A CEMP should include the following general information about the project: 

– Description of the location and receiving environment including sensitive receivers 

– Description of the construction works to be undertaken 

– Identification and analysis of potential environmental impacts 

– Identification and description of the management measures to be implemented to mitigate linked source−receptor−exposure pathways 

– Identification of a person or persons with responsibility for implementing the control measures

The CEMP could also include information on any higher-level environmental management systems, work procedures, document control, corrective action and review procedures. For more information refer to our Environmental Management Plan article. Or, download our key components of an Environmental Management Plan here.

To prevent or minimise environmental impact, it is important to understand the link between construction activities and the potential for these activities to impact on the environment. 

Construction Activities and Environmental Impacts 

The types of environmental aspects that need to be considered may include: 

– Flora and fauna

– Erosion and sedimentation

– Water quality including groundwater

– Air quality

– Indigenous and non-indigenous heritage

– Noise and vibration

– Waste

– Hazardous materials

– Rehabilitation

Examples of the potential environmental impacts from construction activities on these environmental aspects are summarised in the table below. 

Construction Activities and Environmental Impacts 

Environmental management measures to be implemented during construction will depend on the nature of the site activities, and the sensitivity of the project area and surrounding land or water environment. For example, excavations resulting in steep slopes are likely to lead to soil erosion and water quality problems downstream and will require the installation of erosion protection measures.

Why Your Civil or Road Construction Project Needs to Comply  

Environmental compliance means conforming with relevant environmental laws, regulations, standards and other requirements. The importance of being compliant with your environmental requirements isn’t just about being green, it is essential to ensuring the success of your construction project by limiting your exposure to regulatory and public scrutiny; ensuring compliance with contractual and best practice requirements; as well as identifying opportunities for improvement.

For more information on environmental compliance refer to our Article on Environmental Compliance Australia

Environmental Audits for Compliance

An environmental audit can be used to investigate the compliance of your project and/or the extent of your environmental liability. An environmental audit evaluates the compliance of management systems and plans with regulations, internal policies or other compliance drivers. Assurance through auditing verification and reporting programs can be used to identify gaps and limitations as well as allocate ownership and accountability to the process of implementing environmental compliance for your project.

For more information on this topic ever to our environmental audits article.

How We Can Help Your Project

Applied Environment & Safety provided environmental support to Hazell Bros during their road construction project. This 8.1 million project involved intersection upgrades and safety widening works on the Bruce Highway located between Gympie and Maryborough in southeast Queensland.

Our role in this local project included environmental audits and inspections during construction. At the commencement of construction, an audit was undertaken to ensure compliance with the requirements in the CEMP. Then monthly inspections were undertaken to ensure ongoing compliance. This included inspection of sediment and erosion controls, waste and water management, and hazardous substance storage and use. Short reports were developed following the inspections for submission to the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

We believe in using our expertise and knowledge to add value and improve project outcomes for our clients. We used our extensive construction knowledge to identify environmental risks and provide practical solutions. Contact us.