Bankstown City Council
Stormwater Audit and Education Program

Since 2008 the Stormwater Audit Program of Bankstown City Council, in Sydney’s south west, has engaged commercial and industrial business operators in preventing stormwater pollution, operating under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act).

The function of the program is to assist business owners to understand their environmental responsibilities and minimise their environmental impacts. The focus of the program is to prevent stormwater pollution and to identify stormwater harvesting and re-use opportunities.

The program has provided a number of benefits, including:

  • Increased environmental awareness for business owners
  • One-on-one conversations reaching business owners who would not normally have access to the information that the audit provides
  • A walk-through of each site to providing insight into business operations
  • Controls implemented by businesses minimising the possibility of pollution occurring in the future
  • A significant amount of liquid and solid pollution stopped from entering the stormwater system.

The program has employed the principle that sustained behaviour change will be more likely the result where businesses are adopting stormwater pollution prevention to enhance their business as an aspect of best practice. As such, the programs approach is different to one that relies solely on compliance. Working closely with business owners, looking at their activities that cause (or could cause) pollution, and providing support, information and assistance, equips them to make effective and lasting change.

The program provides local businesses with knowledge, information and guidance to make effective and lasting changes to reduce the environmental impacts of their business operations, with a focus on stormwater pollution. The program also assists businesses to identify stormwater harvesting and re-use opportunities.

As of 2015, a new approach has profiled businesses according to the risk of their operations to water quality in receiving waterways. High risk businesses (e.g. automotive mechanics) receive a full audit under POEO Act. Low risk businesses (e.g. hairdressers) receive a less formal approach with an education visit.

An audit involves an introductory meeting to discuss business operations and the operators understanding of POEO Act. The operator and auditor then tour the facility and any POEO Act non-compliances are discussed. The operator generally describes the business processes and associated issues are discussed which include staff training, spill clean-up procedures, liquid storage and disposal, and waste management. Following the audit, possible rectification works and timeframes are discussed. A letter is sent, including a schedule of works and a tailored information pack. Once compliant, a certificate of completion is issued.

An education visit involves a shorter meeting in which the auditor discusses business activities which have the possibility of pollution (e.g. mop water disposal and car washing) and provides general information on what constitutes pollution, what the difference is between stormwater and sewer, and the POEO Act.

In 2015, 448 business operators were engaged by the program and 247 audits were conducted, with 84 businesses having non-compliances identified. Business operators have noted their appreciation of various components of the Program, with many welcoming Council to their sites to provide a step by step understanding of their responsibilities. Others expressed appreciation for local waterways and respect for what the program has achieved. In some instances, businesses have demonstrated improved efficiency and cost savings through changes instigated by the program.