Background

Location NSW, Australia.
Service Hazardous dust and soil management, Erosion
Control, Stabilisation & Dust Suppression
Products GRT: Enviro-Binder
Duration March to July 2020
Status Complete

The 2019/2020 Australian bushfire season was a tragic event for all Australians. Not only did the fires burn over an estimated 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres) of land, it destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including 2,779 homes). Tragically, 34 lives were directly lost during the event of this environmental calamity, many of which were trying to save others. In addition to the direct deaths, at least 445 deaths were recorded after the initial bushfire. These indirect deaths were caused due to the smoke inhalation. Following the 2019/2020 Australian Bushfire season, the New South Wales government selected Laing O’Rourke as the primary contractor to undertake in the Australian Bushfire clean-up. A GRT industry article regarding this appointment can be read on the GRT website here

As part of the bushfire clean-up contract, one of Laing O’Rourke major challenges was reducing the amount of dust particles within the smoke as smoke impalement was becoming a cause of death for many civilians and animals. Moreover, Laing O’Rourke was tasked with managing potential erosion possibilities as well as cleaning the contaminated land caused by chemicals, fuels, and oils, etc. spilled during the bushfire. With the affected bushfire area immensely large, precise planning alongside Laing O’Rourke would be completed to ensure that all regulations and standards of the client were met, whilst ensuring potential health, safety, and environmental risks were realised, managed, and mitigated.

Challenges

With the 2020/2021 Australian bushfire season arriving half a year after Laing O’Rourke was selected for the 2019/2020 bushfire clean-up contract, it was imperative for Laing O’Rourke that the sub-contractors and potential products used were quickly selected so recovery work could begin. Due to GRT’s international recovery effort expertise New Zealand Nelson Bushfires, and Christchurch earthquake recovery (with GRT: Rubble-Loc) GRT was honoured to be selected to provide the expertise for managing hazardous dust and soil as well as halting any further environmental contamination. Furthermore, it was determined after an initial assessment that most of the root mass within the soil has been destroyed during the bushfires. The lack of root mass within the soil can cause large scale erosions and landslides, potentially damaging more surrounding land and communities.

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In addition to managing erosion and landslides, GRT was tasked with halting the spread of contamination caused by common households, farming and yard maintenance products such as pool chemicals, fuels and oils, paints, solvents, plastics, metals, treated timber, as well as older building materials such as asbestos roofing, cladding, and melted fences. These products can become harmful residues when mixed with ash and soot, dangerously damaging environments, wildlife, and humans.

Solution

Due to the immense scale of the recovery area as well as the type of challenges included, GRT and Laing O’Rourke determined that GRT products GRT: Enviro-Binder and GRT: Rubble-Loc were the best options for erosion control and hazardous product containment, respectively.

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“GRT was engaged to provide options to supply several Laing O’Rourke subcontractors with GRT: Enviro-Binder – a specialised erosion and dust control polymer – as well as a number of our specially developed, unique polymer pumps to assist with spraying the products to cap burnt out properties during and after the recovery work to protect workers and communities from hazardous dust exposure,” GRT Managing Director Daniel Grundy said. 

In the end, the product chosen was GRT: Enviro-Binder, a non-toxic and environmentally friendly product, was the selected product for the erosion and sediment control as it:

  • Was a uniquely developed product that followed the ideal of “STOP EROSION AT THE SOURCE”
  • Provided exceptional erosion control immediately after application.
  • Met the strict environmental criteria imposed by the NSW Government and primary Bushfire contractor, Laing O’Rourke.
  • Required minimal maintenance, unlike conventional methods. 

GRT Enviro-binder is a drying polymer emulsion sprayed on or worked into the surface of embankments to provide a waterproof, durable, surface that prevents erosion.

Benefits

The GRT Enviro-binder also provided many innovative benefits and delivered high performing results that were expected from the product:

  • Only required 5% of polymer in 5,000 Litres of water using modified buckets to ensure even application.
  • Continued to provide exceptional results even through unconventional aerial application.
  • Minimal soil preparation for production application
  • Waterproof product; not affected by high rainfall or storm seasons. 
  • Cost-effective results

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Read more about how GRT played a critical role in helping Australia recover from a devastating record 2019/2020 bushfire season here.