Tag Archives: construction pollution

Pollution From Construction

Here is an article from Sustainable Build written by Jennifer Gray regarding pollution from construction – I hope you enjoy the read!

“The construction industry is a major source of pollution, responsible for around 4% of particulate emissions, more water pollution incidents than any other industry, and thousands of noise complaints every year. Although construction activities also pollute the soil, the main areas of concern are: air, water and noise pollution.

Air Pollution
Construction activities that contribute to air pollution include: land clearing, operation of diesel engines, demolition, burning, and working with toxic materials. All construction sites generate high levels of dust (typically from concrete, cement, wood, stone, silica) and this can carry for large distances over a long period of time. Construction dust is classified as PM10 – particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter, invisible to the naked eye.
Research has shown that PM10 penetrate deeply into the lungs and cause a wide range of health problems including respiratory illness, asthma, bronchitis and even cancer. Another major source of PM10 on construction sites comes from the diesel engine exhausts of vehicles and heavy equipment. This is known as diesel particulate matter (DPM) and consists of soot, sulphates and silicates, all of which readily combine with other toxins in the atmosphere, increasing the health risks of particle inhalation.

Diesel is also responsible for emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide. Noxious vapours from oils, glues, thinners, paints, treated woods, plastics, cleaners and other hazardous chemicals that are widely used on construction sites, also contribute to air pollution.

Water Pollution
Sources of water pollution on building sites include: diesel and oil; paint, solvents, cleaners and other harmful chemicals; and construction debris and dirt. When land is cleared it causes soil erosion that leads to silt-bearing run-off and sediment pollution. Silt and soil that runs into natural waterways turns them turbid, which restricts sunlight filtration and destroys aquatic life.

Surface water run-off also carries other pollutants from the site, such as diesel and oil, toxic chemicals, and building materials like cement. When these substances get into waterways they poison water life and any animal that drinks from them. Pollutants on construction sites can also soak into the groundwater, a source of human drinking water. Once contaminated, groundwater is much more difficult to treat than surface water.

Noise Pollution
Construction sites produce a lot of noise, mainly from vehicles, heavy equipment and machinery, but also from people shouting and radios turned up too loud. Excessive noise is not only annoying and distracting, but can lead to hearing loss, high blood pressure, sleep disturbance and extreme stress. Research has shown that high noise levels disturb the natural cycles of animals and reduces their usable habitat.
Measures to Prevent Pollution
Good construction site practice can help to control and prevent pollution. The first step is to prepare environmental risk assessments for all construction activities and materials likely to cause pollution. Specific measures can then be taken to mitigate these risks:

  • To prevent erosion and run-off, minimise land disturbance and leave maximum vegetation cover.
  • Control dust through fine water sprays used to dampen down the site.
  • Screen the whole site to stop dust spreading, or alternatively, place fine mesh screening close to the dust source.
  • Cover skips and trucks loaded with construction materials and continually damp down with low levels of water.
  • Cover piles of building materials like cement, sand and other powders, regularly inspect for spillages, and locate them where they will not be washed into waterways or drainage areas.
  • Use non-toxic paints, solvents and other hazardous materials wherever possible
  • Segregate, tightly cover and monitor toxic substances to prevent spills and possible site contamination.
  • Cover up and protect all drains on site .
  • Collect any wastewater generated from site activities in settlement tanks, screen, discharge the clean water, and dispose of remaining sludge according to environmental regulations.
  • Use low sulphur diesel oil in all vehicle and equipment engines, and incorporate the latest specifications of particulate filters and catalytic converters.
  • No burning of materials on site.
  • Reduce noise pollution through careful handling of materials; modern, quiet power tools, equipment and generators; low impact technologies; and wall structures as sound shields.

Pressure to Clean Up
The UK Environment Agency and other government bodies are putting increasing pressure on construction companies to reduce pollution and conform to environmental regulations. In the past the pollution fines have been low and environmental regulations slack, and it could have been perceived as cheaper to pollute than to prevent pollution. This situation is now changing, and enforcement of environmental regulations is not only very expensive but can be irreversibly damaging to the reputation of a firm. Measures to reduce and control pollution are relatively inexpensive and cost-effective, and the construction industry needs to incorporate these into an environmental management strategy. By employing these practices, the construction industry is well positioned to clean up its act. Find out more about ecofriendly construction methods.”
Pollution From Construction

Another article concerning the same issue is posted below.  This one was found at Environmental Pollution Centers

Construction Sites Pollution

“Construction sites are found both within urban and rural areas, often in the close proximity of homes. Due to their proximity to homes and the materials used, construction sites may generate home pollution. This involves air, water, soil, and/or noise pollution. Additionally, construction work may reveal existing subsurface pollution. In such situation, construction work is stopped and costly remediation is needed. Thus, construction work may generate construction pollution problems affecting both homeowners and construction site owners. Moreover, construction workers (especially in the past) may be exposed to pollution. These aspects will be discussed in more details below, along with tips and measures to prevent and face pollution, as well as to recover the costs.

If you live in a home close to a construction site (i.e., within 1 block or less) you may face the following type of pollution:

Air pollution – the air you breathe may be polluted due to the construction work. Apart from the noise, poor air quality is the most immediate pollution effect you may experience from a construction site. This means that airborne contaminants including contaminated particulate matter and volatile compounds are spreading around (mostly carried by wind) in the surrounding neighborhood (the main wind direction will influence the area most affected by air pollution around a construction site). Contaminants spreading around in air can travel large distances in a short time. The main construction contaminants that spread around by wind include PM10 (particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 microns generating polluted dust), PAHs bound to particulate matter, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.
Water pollution – the surface water runoff and the groundwater close to a construction site become polluted with various materials used in the construction work. As described for air pollution above, the following construction contaminants can pollute the water: VOCs, paints, glues, diesel, oils, other toxic chemicals, and cement. The immediate effect is creating turbidity in the runoff water and affected surface and groundwater (since some of the runoff water may infiltrate in the subsurface reaching the groundwater. In fact, both groundwaters below your home and surface runoff close to your home may constitute a source of pollution emanating from the construction sites. Domestic animals and pets may drink contaminated water and soil may become contaminated too. Additionally, once the groundwater below your home becomes contaminated, it may affect you in the following ways: through direct consumption if you use water from a property well, and indirectly by affecting the quality of your indoor air (vapor intrusion of the volatile contaminants from water). Overall, water pollution from construction sites is underestimated and has potential to generate severe environmental problems.
Soil pollution – soil at and around a construction site may become contaminated due to air transport followed by deposition of construction contaminants (listed at air pollution) as well as water runoff of construction contaminants (as listed for water pollution). Soil may constitute a sink for pollutants and some of those may accumulate in soil and persist over longer periods of time (e.g., PAHs).
Noise pollution – noise is usually associated with construction work although modern preventive measures may substantially reduce the amount of noise (in the neighboring community). Noise may adversely affect your health, including effects such as stress, sleep disturbance, high blood pressure and even hearing loss.
Construction pollution involves the following main types of construction work:

Building construction pollution – represents the generation of construction contamination at sites where buildings are constructed which may involve also a demolition phase (if the construction site has an existing building)
Road construction pollution – represents the generation of construction contamination at sites where roads are built
Construction Pollution Prevention and Cost Recovery
Personal damage. From the perspective of the public, the best prevention is to spend as little time as possible outside (e.g., in your yard or balcony) close to a construction site during operation time. Additionally, having a rich vegetation around your home (and between the home and the construction site) will act as a natural filter for the generated pollution, reducing the amount of pollution you may come in contact with. So, planting in your yards or even potted plants in a balcony can help. The greener the better. Also, regular spraying of water around the home will reduce the amount of dust and exposure through inhalation, although the soil and water pollution may increase (but these are affecting you less directly than air!). However, if you believe you are already negatively impacted by a construction site in the vicinity, especially if you have been recently diagnosed with a medical condition involving the respiratory system, you may be entitled to compensation.
Property damage. From the perspective of the construction site owner / developer, you may be faced with building on polluted land (pollution could be discovered during construction excavation work). To prevent such situation, you should order a full land quality survey (environmental site assessment phase 1 and 2) before starting any construction work. However, if this is not possible and you are faced with building on polluted land, you may be able to recover remediation costs from the original polluters. In this situation, specialized forensic investigations and legal advice (using top specialized legal firms) are recommended.”

Hope you enjoyed the read!  Enjoy your day.

Regards, Chris

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.