Heavy Equipment & Earthmoving Activities

Safe Environment Practices and Procedures

  • Bulldozer, Backhoe and Gardening Machine Operators
  • Developers
  • Dump Truck Drivers
  • General Contractors
  • Home Builders
  • Site Supervisors

Heavy Equipment Operation Problems

Soil excavation and grading operations often contribute to urban runoff pollution. By loosening large amounts of soil and sediment, earth-moving activities can cause sediment to flow into gutters, storm drains and the ocean. Sediment is the most common pollutant washed from worksites, creating multiple problems once it enters the ocean. Sediment clogs the gills of fish, blocks light transmission and increases ocean water temperature, all of which harm sea life, disturbing the food chain upon which both fish and people depend upon. Sediment also carries with it other worksite pollutants such as pesticides, cleaning solvents, cement wash, asphalt and car fluids like motor oil, grease and fuel. Thus, poorly maintained vehicles and heavy equipment leaking fuel and oil at the construction site, also contribute to ocean pollution.


Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as handling, storing, and disposing of materials properly can prevent pollutants from entering the storm drains.

General Business Practices

Schedule excavation and grading work for dry weather. Use as little water as possible for dust control.

Clean Up Spills

  • Never hose down "dirty" pavement or impermeable surfaces where fluids have spilled. Use dry cleanup methods (sawdust, kitty litter, and/or rags) and dispose of the material properly.
  • Sweep up dry spilled materials immediately. Never attempt to bury them or "wash them away" with water.
  • Clean up spills on dirt areas by digging up and properly disposing of contaminated soil.
  • Report significant spills to the appropriate spill response agencies immediately.

Vehicle & Equipment Maintenance

  • Maintain all vehicle and heavy equipment in good working order and inspect frequently for leaks.
  • Conduct all vehicle/equipment maintenance and refueling at one location--away from storm drains.
  • Perform major maintenance, repair jobs and vehicle/equipment washing off-site.
  • Use gravel approaches where truck traffic is frequent, to reduce soil compaction and limit the tracking of sediment into streets.
  • Use drip pans or drop cloths to catch drips and spills if you drain and replace motor oil, radiator coolant or other fluids on site. Collect all used fluids, store in separate containers and recycle whenever possible.
  • Do not use diesel oil to lubricate equipment or parts.

Erosion Prevention

After clearing, grading or excavating, exposed soil poses a clear and immediate danger for storm water pollution. Re-vegetation (permanent or temporary) is an excellent form of erosion control for any site.

  • Avoid excavation and grading activities during wet weather.
  • Construct diversion dikes to channel runoff around the site.
  • Line channels with grass or roughened pavement to reduce runoff velocity.
  • Cover stockpiles and excavated soil with secured tarps or plastic sheeting.
  • Remove existing vegetation only when absolutely necessary. Large projects should be conducted in phases.
  • Consider planting temporary vegetation for erosion control on slopes or where construction is not immediately planned.
  • Plant permanent vegetation as soon as possible, once excavation and grading activities are complete.