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How to Manage Concrete Waste Water on Construction Sites

2012 Compliance Leader (

The construction industry is one of the major waste producers in Australia. The construction waste is generally defined as waste emanating from construction, demolition and renovation activities. Similarly, it may include surplus or damaged products and materials and concrete waste water resulting from construction work. The traditional disposal method of construction waste was landfill. Now, due to stringent waste disposal laws and dwindling number of landfills available in the country, the construction companies are forced to explore alternative ways of managing construction waste.

In essence, prudent and proper management of waste streams have been the priority. Thus, many construction contractors are looking for various practices and ways to reduce construction waste such as concrete waste water at the source itself. This article is only looking at how to manage concrete waste water during construction.

Why is it important to Manage Concrete Waste Water?

Concrete waste water or fresh concrete or cement based mortar are highly toxic to marine and plant life. Concrete waste water is highly alkaline and has very high pH value around 12. Due to high alkalinity it can burn fish and plants in natural streams. A small quantity of concrete waste water cans hundreds of aquatic life including plants. Australian Water Quality Guidelines recommend that fresh water pH should not be kept between 6.5 and 9.0. Any changes beyond 0.5pH value either from lower or upper limit should be probed. Higher penalties (>Aus$1500) are imposed on pollution from concrete construction.

Site Preparation
The management should ensure that all construction workers are fully aware of the compliance requirements and procedures under Environmental Management System/Plan including waste disposal methods available.

Provide Separate Wash-down Area

Make it compulsory that all concrete mixer trucks should return to Ready Mix Plant (RMP) premises for washing.

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Ensure that the concrete wash area (at RMP) is located at least 20m from storm water drains, pits and inlets. Remove or scrape concrete from the equipment and trucks before washing. It is essential that the washing area is fully secured with plastic lining to capture cement slurry run-offs. Alternatively, provide temporary lined pits or removable containers.

Waste Water Management and Disposal Procedures

Regular inspections and controls should be carried out to check whether correct procedures (as per the Environmental Management Plan) are adhered during construction. If any equipment or mixer has the vulnerability to leakages, those must be repaired or replaced immediately. Concrete waste water emanating from the wash-down areas must be carefully transported to RMP for either treatment or disposal at an authorised landfill or recycled. Prevent any spills during truck mixers transfer of concrete to concrete pumps for placement. Use suitable plastic sheets to capture any concrete spills on to bare soils. Dispose the collected spills (as described before) once the trucks leave the site. When cleaning the concrete pump lines, always ensure that the concrete will not splatter at the end of the pump line.

In the absence of Designated Wash-down Areas

Use drums (with sufficient capacity) to collect concrete waste water or slurry run-off. Similarly, use suction pumps or wet industrial vacuum cleaners to filter the concrete waste run-off. Recycle the filtered water whenever possible. If it is not practical, dispose the waste water using approved disposal method.

Concrete Saw Cutting

Ensure dust and sediment controls are introduced. For example, sandbags or sponges should be placed around storm water drains or collection pits or manholes to prevent toxic concrete waste water entering into storm-water drains. Divert concrete slurry or concrete waste water run-off into a pool located close to the working area as appropriate. Immediately remove any concrete dust or residue from the work area including wash-down area. Its better to use appropriate tools and equipment such as shovels, sweepers and vacuum systems. Warning: You should avoid hosing any residue into the storm-water drain Use very little water when wet cutting of concrete Always try to locate cutting equipment away from storm water drains. Also, the work area must be adequately big enough to control concrete waste water or slurry or residues.

2012 Compliance Leader (

Fig-(1) Use of sandbags to drive run-off on to grass area (or to a pit) instead of sending it into street storm water drain (Source:

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Fig-(2) Collect all concrete waste/debris/dust using collection pans/sweepers/brushers/vacuum dust collectors (Source:

Fig- (3) Concrete Washout

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Fig-(4) Inlet Protection

Fig-(5) Truck Mixer Washout Truck Empty and Wash Out the Residual Concrete into the Container
The Bibko ComTec residual concrete recycling system offers a washing performance of 20 m3/h. Truck mixers empty and wash out their residual concrete into the attached collecting funnel. In the operational sequence, sand and gravel > 0.2 mm are removed by a screw conveyor. The residual water with the fines < 0.2 mm flows via a channel into a collecting basin provided for the purpose. Sand, gravel and residual water can now be used for the production of new concrete

2012 Compliance Leader (