NSW Storm and Flood Clean-up Updates

The EPA and other NSW Government agencies are undertaking the largest clean-up in the state’s history of our shorelines and beaches following severe storms and flooding in March.

The Shoreline Clean-Up Program is using innovative technology and aerial surveillance to mark up where debris and waste is located up and down the coast, and has appointed a specialist maritime salvage company to undertake the enormous clean-up effort. 

•    The Program also includes clean-up of debris reported by councils, the public, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Crown Lands and other agencies and stakeholders. 

•    More than 2500m3 of waste has already been removed including parts of caravans, chemical drums and containers, agricultural waste, large hay bales, cars, buildings and branches and trees.

•    We know the clean-up will take time and we ask people to be patient. Priority for removal is being given to debris that poses a risk to the community and to the environment such as chemical drums and maritime hazards.

•    Safety is the priority of the clean-up, for both clean-up crews and the community, so we ask the community to take care in our waterways and on our shorelines when dealing with debris. 

•    Members of the community can assist the clean-up of their local area by reporting flood debris in local rivers and beaches to the Environment Line on 131 555 or info@epa.nsw.gov.au 

Specialist marine contractor, Avcon Projects Australasia have been engaged by the EPA to remove waste from waterways and shorelines for the Hawkesbury area which extends to the Central Coast and Sydney’s northern beaches. A second contractor, Varley Group have been engaged for the area of northern NSW. Both contractors have extensive experience in shoreline clean-up. 

Clean-up isn’t necessarily complete when the contractors leave an area as currents, tides and rain can bring submerged flood debris to the surface. Contractors are being redeployed to collect emerging debris when it is identified. This has occurred in several areas already including the Nambucca and Corindi Rivers.

NSW Public Works Advisory has been arranging the transport and disposal of debris collected by the contractors to recycling facilities and landfills in local areas.

Flood and storm impacted people and businesses can now access all available State Government and Federal Government support, through the NSW Government’s Disaster Customer Care program, by calling Service NSW on 13 77 88 or visiting www.service.nsw.gov.au 

Community Safety

  • Safety is the number one priority during the state’s largest ever clean-up of its shorelines and rivers, for both the clean-up crews and the community.
  • Priority will be given to debris that poses a risk to the community and to the environment such as chemical drums and maritime hazards.
  • The community needs to be mindful that there are still large parts of debris submerged in waterways which can be a hazard that can’t be seen.
  • To check if it’s safe to swim at your local beach check Beachwatch.
  • Use caution when swimming in rivers and please report flood debris in local rivers to the Environment Line on 131 555 or info@epa.nsw.gov.au
  • If an immediate response is required (imminent risk to the community or the environment) call Fire and Rescue NSW on Triple Zero (000) for a HAZMAT response
  • The floods and storms may still be impacting water quality and safety and the community is reminded to be careful of debris in the water and to report large build-ups of flood debris on public land to the EPA or local council.
  • Members of the community can assist the clean-up of their local area by reporting flood debris in local rivers and beaches to the Environment Line on 131 555 or info@epa.nsw.gov.au.

If you are assisting with the clean-up of debris, please remember to:

  • Always wear gloves and protective footwear to avoid direct contact with the skin, and to protect yourself from injury.
  • When collecting and removing rotting material such as spoiled food or vegetation, always wear a P2 face mask.
  • Wash your hands after dealing with waste.
  • While cleaning up, be mindful of materials containing asbestos and take appropriate precautions. See the following link for more information on asbestos management.
  • If you encounter material that you suspect may be hazardous please avoid it and call Environment Line on 131 555 or info@epa.nsw.gov.au.

During clean-up, it is important to protect yourself and also to be mindful of the environment around you.

Some eco-systems, including environments with mangroves, can be easily damaged, including by trampling.

Be sure you aren’t damaging sensitive environments when clearing debris

If you are unsure of accessing an area for clean-up please contact your local council.

What do I need to do with waste material?

Where teams and local emergency personnel, council and partnering NSW Government agencies identify ongoing clean-up needs that are still required after the Immediate Relief Teams have moved through an area, the NSW and Commonwealth Governments have funded your local council and a coordinated program of assistance to help communities in this phase.

If you are in in a Disaster-Declared area your local council is your initial point of contact to seek assistance, or phone Service NSW on 13 77 88 for information on what assistance is available and to be referred to appropriate support.

If you are not in a Local Government Area (LGA) covered by the Immediate Relief Teams, liaise with your council regarding the arrangements for clean-up practices particular to your locality.

You can start managing your waste by separating it into the following groups:

• hard bulk waste (furniture, carpets, mattresses)
• green waste (vegetation)
• scrap metal (whitegoods and e-waste)
• food waste (use your red lid bin first. If the bin is full put food waste in a container on the kerb or roadside)

Separating waste into the different waste types means we will be able to send the right waste to the right place and save valuable landfill space.

Hazardous chemicals

Household hazardous waste includes materials such as acids and alkalis, brake fluids and coolants, car care products, cleaning products, paint, pesticides, insecticides, rodenticides, herbicides and other garden chemicals, polishes, pool chemicals, solvents (including paint thinners, turpentine) and varnishes and stains.

Appropriate handling and personal protective equipment must be used when handling hazardous chemicals requiring disposal, particularly gloves.

Keep hazardous materials aside for specialist disposal as directed by your local council or based on provisions at your nearest Community Recycling Centre. Community Recycling Centres are for common household problem wastes that can’t be collected via council kerbside waste and recycling collection services. NSW householders can drop off problem wastes at these centres free of charge. Review what Community Recycling Centres can take here

Asbestos

Asbestos is hazardous but you can manage it safely.

  • If your house was built before 1990, it is likely to contain asbestos
  • It could be in the form of flat or corrugated sheets (fibro) used for walls, ceilings and roofing, or in products such as pipes, electrical conduit, eaves or the backing under vinyl flooring.
  • Find out what asbestos looks like and where it could be at nsw.gov.au  
  • If you find asbestos debris on your property you can safely remove it yourself if you wish. Follow the advice from NSW Fire and Rescue.
  • Keep asbestos waste separated from other waste you are removing, and do not put it in red bins or skip bins. This is really important to keep your community, volunteers and clean-up crews safe.

If I decide to deal with flood-affected asbestos myself, what should I do?

  • Using a licensed asbestos removalist is the best way to remove asbestos, but this may not be possible following a flood or storm.

    A licensed asbestos removalist knows how to safely remove and dispose of asbestos, then decontaminate your property to minimise health risks.

    • If you are not using a licensed removalist you can remove asbestos on your property safely by doing the following steps:Obtain 2 thick plastic bags, disposable plastic gloves or washing up gloves.
    • Obtain a P2 face mask – from the hardware store. Masks used for COVID-19 safety won’t protect you.
    • Put on the mask and gloves before starting the clean-up
    • Pick up (don’t sweep) the pieces of asbestos and place in plastic bag
    • When finished remove gloves and face mask and place in plastic bag
    • Knot the top of the plastic bag and then place the knotted plastic bag into the second empty plastic bag and then knot the top
    • Clearly label the bag as asbestos.
    • Wash and clean hands thoroughly with soap and water
    • Keep asbestos waste separated from other waste you are removing
    • Follow advice from the local emergency services or council on where to put this separated waste
    • DO NOT put asbestos waste in red-lid bins or skip bins that aren’t meant for asbestos waste. This is really important to keep your family, volunteers and clean-up crews safe.

For more detailed information regarding managing asbestos after emergencies and disasters please click here.

How do I clean my flood affected property?

  • Each area affected by floodwater within the house needs to be cleaned, including empty refrigerators and cupboards.
  • Wash mud, dirt and debris from your house with a hose, starting at the highest point and working down to ground level.
  • Where possible, remove all wet items such as floor coverings, rugs, mats, furniture, bedding, linen and clothing. If floor coverings are removed, thoroughly clean and dry the floor underneath before new material is laid.
  • Begin drying out the house as soon as floodwaters recede – open doors and windows during dry days, use fans where possible, check for trapped water and mud in wall or floor cavities.
  • Hard-surfaced floors, walls, benches and sinks should be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water and disinfected by wiping or spraying surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution (see below) or a product labelled as a disinfectant. Once disinfected, allow to dry.
  • Flood-affected mattresses are difficult to treat and may need to be discarded.
  • Furniture, such as lounge chairs, may be air dried in the sun then sprayed thoroughly with a disinfectant solution. Consult a local furniture renovating company if you are unsure about their condition.
  • Soft toys should be discarded, solid toys should be washed and then disinfected.

More information to help you clean up your house and kitchen is available here:

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/emergency_preparedness/weather/Pages/household-cleanup.aspx

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/emergency_preparedness/weather/Pages/kitchen-cleanup.aspx

Flood and storm impacted people and businesses can now access all available State Government and Federal Government support, through the NSW Government’s Disaster Customer Care program, by calling Service NSW on 13 77 88 or visiting www.service.nsw.gov.au