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Are you ready for Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Regulation Changes?

by David Ngugan, Staff Writer

A breakfast and seminar session organized by ECOH Management Inc. was held on June 20th in Mississauga, Ontario.  The seminar included a presentation by Vice President Jeff Muir titled “Digging Deep – Are you ready for Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Regulation Changes?” about the upcoming changes to the Excess Soil Management Regulations. He spoke about the implications of the new regulations, including cost, the depletion of sites with capacity to accept waste soils, illegal dumping and lack of tracking, and inconsistent oversight and criteria for the management of excess soils.

Jeff Muir, VP Environmental, EHOS

Jeff spoke about the current 2014 guidelines – “Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices” that gives options for the management of excess soils both onsite and offsite,  as well as best management practices for project leaders. These include having an excess soil management plan to indicate where the soil will go and a sampling and analysis plan, including soil characterization and characterization of the receiving site.

He also pointed out some issues with the guidelines, particularly in the lack of clarity regarding who is responsible for the excess soil, as the term “project leader” is loosely defined. In addition, the requirements for proper characterization of soils are not clearly defined, such as a minimum number of samples required for a specific volume of soil. Jeff added that currently, many receiving sites are usually managed by municipalities that issue permits for the receiving of excess soil, and this presents opportunities for inconsistencies between various sites.

The proposed regulations enhance the responsibility and accountability of the generators of excess soil, as well as requiring an Excess Soil Management Plan (ESMP) for high risk or high volumes of soil. Under the proposed regulations, a ESMP should consist of a description of the project area and description and ownership, the names of qualified persons and contractors, excess soil sampling plan and characterizations, a list of receiving sites, a soil tracking system, and a record of the cumulative amount of soil moved.  The new regulations will also establish a registry where ESMPs will be submitted.

Jeff concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of preplanning – have all the costs, receiving sites, and estimated volumes of soil prepared ahead of time, as well as to focus on working with ESMPs well ahead of the promulgation of the regulations.  It is anticipated that the regulations will be promulgated this calendar year.

MOECC Releases Notice of Updated Excess Soil Management Proposal

By David Nguyen – Staff Writer

The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) recently posted notice on the Environmental Bill of Rights Environmental Registry of the regulatory changes to the management of excess soil (Excess Soil Management Regulatory Proposal, ERO# 013-2774). Excess soil is soil that has been dug up, such as during excavation activities, and cannot be reused at its original site and must be moved off site.  There is much controversy in the Province of Ontario and other provinces concerning the management of excess soil as there are claims and growing evidence that some companies mix clean soil with contaminated soil, some companies dispose of contaminated soil as clean soil, and other questionable practices.

The MOECC proposal clarifies where soils can be reused based on the soil characterization and aims to reduce greenhouse gasses from the transportation of soil by encouraging local reuse. The proposal also clarifies that the project leader is responsible for the management and relocation of the excess soil generated during a project to ensure proper characterization and relocation. Minor amendments to O.Reg. 153/04 and to O. Reg. 347 are also proposed.

The current proposal incorporates responses and comments from the previous proposal as well as from engagement with stakeholders and Indigenous communities. Changes from the previous proposal include:

  • A revised approach to waste designation
  • Reduced regulatory complexity and some details moved to guidance
  • A two to three years transition time for key regulations
  • Several O. Reg. 153/04 amendments to come into effect sooner
  • More flexibility for reuse through new reuse standards and a Beneficial Reuse Assessment Tool to develop site specific standards

This proposal is part of the MOECC’s response to the commitments outlined in Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Policy Framework. Other actions of the framework include developing priority education, outreach and training initiatives to support implementation.

The specific regulations and proposals provided for comments are summarized below:

  • A new proposed On-Site and Excess Soil Management Regulation
    • Excess soil would be designated as waste when it leaves the project area unless it is reused in accordance with the rules set out in this regulation.
    • If designated waste, the regulation would clarify when an ECA is not required.
    • Hauling of excess soil would generally not need an ECA, but is still subject to certain rules, such as maintaining records.
    • Project leaders may use temporary soil storage sites without an ECA as long as certain conditions are met.
    • Unless exempted, a project leader is responsible for preparing an Excess Soil Management Plan (ESMP), which involves determining contaminant concentrations on the soil, finding appropriate receiving sites, develop a tracking system and record keeping requirements.
    • Key information from the ESMP would be registered on a public registry. A qualified person (QP) would need to prepare or supervise the ESMP.
    • The regulation would be phased in over two to three years.
  • Amendments to O. Reg. 153/04
    • Align the requirements for soil being taken to Record of Site Condition (RSC) or phase two properties with the new rules for excess soil proposed in the On-Site and Excess Soil Management Regulation.
    • Resolve delineation challenges experienced at properties going through the Risk Assessment process.
    • Remove Record of Site Condition triggers for low risk projects.
    • Provide flexibility for meeting contamination standards where exceedances are cause by substances used for ice and snow safety, discharges of treated drinking water, and presence of fill that matches local background levels.
  • Amendments to O. Reg. 347
    • Clarify that excess soil is no longer part of the definition of “inert fill.”
    • Clarify operational requirements to support exemptions from ECA requirements for excess soil related activities.
  • Proposal of Rules for On-site and Excess Soil Management
    • A proposed document to be adopted by reference in the On-Site and Excess Soil Management Regulation
    • Specifies ESMP contents, including an assessment of past uses, sampling and analysis plan, excess soil characterization, requirements for excess soil tracking systems, a destination assessment and identification, and declarations required of the project leader and qualified person, and applicable soil quality standards and related rules.
  • The proposed “Beneficial Reuse Assessment Tool” (BRAT)
    • An alternative rules that aim to promote greater reuse of excess soil and the protection of human health and the environment
    • Allows a QP to generate site specific standards using a spreadsheet model

Comments can be made on the proposal up to June 15, 2018 on the Environmental Registry of Ontario proposal site or by mail.

Ontario MOECC Issues Draft Order to Mining Company in Northern Ontario

Ontario MOECC recently issued a draft Director’s Order to Ontario Graphite Ltd. and several Directors of the company that, if finalized, will require the company to perform remedial work related to an interceptor trench, mine tailings dam, polishing pond.

The mining operation, referred to as the Kearney Graphite Mine, is located Township of Butt in the District of Parry Sound, approximately 20 km north east of the community of Kearney.

Ontario Graphite Ltd. Kearney Mine Site (Photo Credit: Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal)

Under these sections of the Environmental Protection Act and Ontario Water Resources Act, the Director may require a person who owns, or owned, or who has or had management or control of an undertaking or property, to take immediate actions and environmental measures to protect the natural environment and to prevent or reduce the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment from the undertaking or property, or to prevent, decrease or eliminate an adverse effect.

The overall objective of the proposed Director’s Order is to amend an existing Director’s Order issued on January 26, 2016 to have the company implement a work plan for the treatment of mine water discharges as well as submit a written report prepared by a qualified person.

On April 10, 2017, Ontario Graphite Ltd. reported that the open pit was overflowing to the environment as a result of spring melt.  Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) staff visited the site on April 12, 2017 and observed that the collection trench used by the company to prevent acidic water from entering Graphite Lake (i.e. the interceptor ditch) had also overflowed at some point prior to the site visit.

During the April 12, 2017 MOECC site visit, company staff reported to the ministry that additional erosion had occurred on the downstream dam that separates the tailings management area from the polishing pond. Company staff did not foresee concerns for dam stability; MOECC staff, however, recommended that the company have someone with the necessary expertise undertake evaluation of the structure.

In response to the MOECC recommendation, the company retained a consulting firm to provide recommendations for any needed remedial work on the tailings dam. As detailed in the updated action plan submitted to the ministry on October 30, 2017, the company awaits receipt of the report detailing these recommendations and following receipt, will implement the recommendations noted.

In 2017, Ontario Graphite Limited reported several non-compliance incidents with water quality discharge limits specified in the Environmental Compliance Approval including acute toxicity, iron, total suspended solids and pH.  Although the company attributed some of the exceedances to the dewatering of the open pit, a consultant hired by the company as a result of the Director’s Order noted a number of recommendations that should be implemented to improve operation of the sewage works and to maintain compliance with the final effluent limits.