Not good enough – paint waste allegedly flowing out into the street in Inverloch.

WHEN Inverloch’s John Gemmill, CEO of the Clean Ocean Foundation, saw painters’ waste flowing out into the street and down the drain in his local neighbourhood, he couldn’t turn a blind eye.

He called the shire and contacted the EPA but still the dirty, discoloured water flowed day after day… no doubt finding its way into the ocean.

“I’m usually looking at national issues, and we’ve certainly had some notable successes but when you see something locally as well, you feel duty-bound to act,” said Mr Gemmill this week.

“I can’t do one thing with the Clean Ocean Foundation and turn a blind eye locally,” he said.

But it’s an all-too-common event, especially where it involves DIY painters or unqualified tradesmen.

“I don’t think these guys are proper tradesmen, they don’t have their business logos painted on their vans.

“I contacted the shire and I guess you could say I badgered them to do something. I guess they’re all working from home.

“They came out and spoke to them a couple of times but the next day they were at it again. The white-coloured water has been flowing out in the street for four or five days now and I contacted the authorities on the first day.

“I imagine they think they can take advantage of the Stage Three restrictions to do what they like.

“They told us to contact the EPA, but they still haven’t been out.”

Mr Gemmill says it’s simply not on to be allowing toxic waste to enter the stormwater system and ultimately the ocean.

In recent times, the Clean Ocean Foundation has successfully lobbied government to clean up its act at the Eastern Treatment Plant at Seaford/Carrum which is discharged at Gunamatta.

“We’re also working on a huge issue with a treatment plant at Warrnambool.

“And we are involved in a number of projects with the government, developing a national outfall database. There’s a lot to be done.”

But, it’s illegal activity in his own neighbourhood that’s really got his goat.

“The building contractor [named] has been contacted even by the owner of the block who is most upset at their lack of care, but they have made no effort to make good their impact,” Mr Gemmill said.

“We reported it to the council on Thursday and the EPA but were still waiting for a response from the EPA.

“I’d be very concerned for the health of our local waterways if this is standard of care the Bass Coast Shire can deliver to protect the environment from non-compliant tradesmen.”

Cleaning up after painting

There’s no need for painting waste, particularly a problem during wash-up, to escape down the drain.

Here’s what to do:

  • If taking a break and returning to the job, the painting equipment may be wrapped in an impervious material such as a plastic bag to slow the hardening of the paint.
  • If the job is finished, return as much paint as possible from rollers, brushes and trays back into the paint containers and seal them.
  • Paint out any excess paint onto an absorbent material such as an old rag or newspaper, allow paint to dry then dispose of the material in the general garbage bin (to landfill).
  • Ensure you have a protected paint wash out area (a designated spot on site that does not drain to the stormwater system) for washing of all painting and/or other dirty equipment. Keep paint types such as water- based and solvent based paints separate.

For water based paints

  • Use one container of water to clean your equipment and another container to rinse. Water from the second container, which was used for rinsing, can be reused for cleaning equipment.
  • Place all wastewater from equipment cleaning into a larger drum and allow the solids to settle and then tip the clear water onto a flat or grassy area away from the stormwater drains.
  • There are also products available that treat paint wastewater allowing for easier disposal. These include paint hardener and water / paint residue separator.
  • Use an old rag or piece of newspaper and wipe out the paint solids from the container. Allow to dry before disposing to landfill.

For oil-based paints

  • Wash equipment in a series of solvent baths until clean. The solvent can be reused until it becomes saturated with paint.
  • Used solvent can be poured into a container for later use. An old rag or piece of newspaper should be used to wipe out the paint solids from the container. Allow the solids to dry before disposing in the garbage to landfill.
  • Solvents should be stored in labelled, sealed containers to prevent evaporation.
  • You must dispose of waste solvent through a licensed hazardous waste contractor. Do not place in a residential garbage bin or on the ground.


* Dry solvent or water based paint residue (also dry brushes and rollers) can be placed in the garbage bin. It must contain no liquid.

* Contact the EPA for advice on the removal and disposal of dry lead paint 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) 24 hours.