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on April 19, 2017

When Stephen Musslewhite saw what an ongoing nuisance concrete washout was becoming in our communities and the impact it has on the environment he decided to do something about it.

In an industry like construction, where some processes seem standard—almost automated—it can be hard to question why we do what we do. Take the cleaning out of a concrete truck on site as soon as the job is done so the concrete doesn’t harden. Where does the left over waste go? Most often, it is dumped in an open excavation or vacant lot, a common practice amongst concrete trades and industry alike. The byproduct created from pouring the remaining concrete onto a construction site is called concrete washout and it can create environmental, aesthetic, and budgetary impacts.

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“Concrete washout negatively impacts our environment and our health,” says Musslewhite, Project Coordinator at Brookfield. “The known constituents in it are caustic and corrosive, with an average pH of 12. Ammonia has a pH of 11; bleach is 12. Neither are good for us to come into direct contact with.” Concrete washout is not regulated in Canada and there is little education about it. When it’s directly introduced into a catch basin, it inevitably finds its way to the nearest storm pond, then on to local estuaries and wetlands, where it harms both plant life and animals.

“Concrete washout also affects our communities aesthetically, when there are piles of wasted concrete laying discarded, and it also cuts deep into our maintenance budgets,” Musslewhite explains. There’s also financial implications he says. “Very little dumped concrete can be recycled when it binds to clay and dirt. It ends up in landfills, where we pay fees by the tonnage, as well as trucking and equipment costs.” 
Musslewhite proposed a trial project in two communities with a local company, Environmental Washout Systems, where Brookfield would cover the costs for the first eight months. The new process sees concrete trucks backing up to special watertight portable bins that capture and contain all of the waste water and washout material. Once set, the washout material can be hauled away and disposed of in an environmentally safe manner. 

Brookfield Sustainability