Modern tech protects local Karaaf Wetlands

EPA Victoria is sending robot cameras into drains and drones into the sky to protect the Karaaf Wetlands at North Torquay.

EPA Victoria is sending robot cameras into drains and drones into the sky to protect the Karaaf Wetlands at North Torquay.

The new technology backs up a program of proactive inspections of home-building sites by officers from EPA and Surf Coast Shire Council.

EPA Regional Manager for the Southwest Tanya McAteer says the Karaaf Wetlands are a treasured asset to the community and the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners.

“The wetlands are downstream from new estates and fed by stormwater drains and local waterways. That makes them vulnerable to any chemicals, litter and sediment that escape those building sites,” Ms McAteer said.

“We would like to do the job with education and cooperation, but we won’t hesitate to fine or prosecute offenders who put the wetlands at risk with carelessness or deliberate offending,” she said.

EPA officers are seeking compliance with the General Environmental Duty (GED) part of the Environment Protection Act 2017. The GED requires all Victorians to take reasonable steps to protect the environment and people’s health from pollution.

On building sites, that means having controls for sediment and stormwater. That way, paint, concrete slurry, mud, and other waste does not escape.

Karaaf Wetlands to be supported by EPA Victoria

Surf Coast Shire Council officers will be looking for sources of litter, such as overloaded waste skips and dumped waste.

Building sites produce a lot of discarded packaging and scrap from items such as waffle pods. Those pieces of paper, plastic and polystyrene are light. They can make their way into drains, waterways, and wetlands.

EPA is using camera drones for aerial surveillance and sending robotic cameras into drains to look for blockages and litter.

“Wetlands are ecosystems that perform an essential role. They purify stormwater, reduce the effect of floods, store carbon and support native birds, animals and aquatic life,” Ms McAteer said.

“The Karaaf Wetlands provide a sensitive saltwater habitat. Pollutants and chemicals in this environment can threaten the entire ecosystem, so it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect it,” she said.

EPA recently fined a painting contractor over $5,000 after finding water used to wash painting equipment flowing from a North Torquay building site into a gutter that led to a stormwater drain.

EPA’s ‘Civil construction, building and demolition guide’ (publication 1834) is available at

Members of the public can report pollution by calling EPA’s 24-hour hotline on 1300 372 842 or providing details online at

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