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Ontario Plans To Amend Excess Soil and Brownfields Regulation

Written by Paul Manning, Manning Environmental Law

Ontario is proposing changes to the excess soil management and brownfields redevelopment regime.

The changes are designed to “make it safer and easier for more excess soil to be reused locally…while continuing to ensure strong environmental protection” and to “clarify rules and remove unnecessary barriers to redevelopment and revitalization of historically contaminated lands…while protecting human health and the environment.

Opponents will see this as a deregulation which will primarily benefit business interests at the cost of environmental protection, notwithstanding these assurances.

Excess Soil

The changes will include the development of a new excess soil regulation supported by amendments to existing regulations including O. Reg. 347 and O. Reg. 153/04 made under the Environmental Protection Act supports key changes to excess soil management.

Proposed changes include:

  • clarifying that excess soil is not a waste if appropriately and directly reused;
  • development of flexible, risk-based reuse excess soil standards and soil characterization rules to provide greater clarity of environmental protection;
  • removal of waste-related approvals for low risk soil management activities;
  • improving safe and appropriate reuse of excess soil by requiring testing, tracking and registration of soil movements for larger and riskier generating and receiving sites;
  • flexibility for soil reuse through a Beneficial Reuse Assessment Tool to develop site specific standards;
  • landfill restrictions on deposit of clean soil (unless needed for cover).

Record of Site Condition

Under O. Reg. 153/04, a Record of Site Condition must be filed on the Ministry’s public registry if there is a change in property use from an industrial, commercial or community use to a more sensitive use, such as residential, institutional, agricultural, or parkland.

The Ministry is proposing amendments to O. Reg. 153/04 including reduced requirements to fully delineate contaminants (i.e. additional sampling) for properties going through the Risk Assessment process when contamination is already well understood.

The amendments would also provide flexibility on meeting standards where exceedances are caused by the use of a substance for safety under conditions of snow and ice, discharges of treated drinking water, and the presence of fill that matches local background levels.

Other proposed amendments would remove the requirement for a Record of Site Condition for specific low risk redevelopment situations, including converting:

  • Low-rise commercial buildings to mixed-use residential with commercial on main floor;
  • Temporary roads in construction areas to residential;
  • Indoor places of worship to residential; and
  • Industrial or commercial to indoor agriculture in or on the same building.

The proposal is posted for comment on the Environment Registry until May 31, 2019. To read the full proposal, click here.

This article has been republished with the permission of the author. It was first published here .

This article is provided only as a general guide and is not legal advice. If you do have any issue that requires legal advice please contact Manning Environmental Law.


About the Author

Paul Manning is the principal of Manning Environmental Law and an environmental law specialist certified by the Law Society of Ontario. He has been named as one of the World’s Leading Environmental Lawyers and one of the World’s Leading Climate Change Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal.
Paul advises clients on a wide range of environmental law issues and represents them as counsel before tribunals and the courts. His practice focuses on environmental, energy, planning and Aboriginal law.

Snapshot of the Canadian Brownfields Programs

As reported by Don Proctor in The Daily Commercial News, the federal government has an important role to play in supporting brownfield development, suggests a recent report authored by third-year undergraduate Ryerson University students working on behalf of the Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN).

“There is a sense among industry professionals and academics that the industry as a whole has not progressed as much as it should,” said one of the students, David Sturgeon, at the CBN’s annual conference held recently at the downtown Toronto university campus.

Map of Brownfield Sites in Regina, Saskatchewan

The students conducted a broad snapshot of federal brownfield programs, highlighting cleanup and best practices.

Sturgeon said the student team organized a three-tier rating scoresheet for each province’s progress on brownfields. B.C., Ontario and Quebec got the highest marks. Quebec is a leader because of its incentives-based cleanup programs. One initiative offers 70 per cent funding for onsite remediation work.

Quebec also has an accessible and up-to-date brownfield site inventory, which is a step ahead of other provinces, Sturgeon told delegates.

While the country’s three most populous provinces scored high, the students ranked Alberta lower down, closer to the middle tier.

“It (the Alberta government) has made quite a bit of progress towards cleanup in the last couple of decades,” Sturgeon said. “But where they struggle is helping developers to act sooner than later on idle or vacant contaminated sites.”

The student team was led by Chris De Sousa, the vice-president of the CBN and a professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University. De Sousa said the study compiled extensive information on brownfields from federal, provincial and territorial governments. Also reviewed were provincial stakeholder groups and comparisons were made with the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Reanne Ridsdale, a Ryerson PhD student, conducted research into actual practice versus the objectives outlined in the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), founded in the late 1980s. For a survey of about 6,500 brownfield remediated sites across Canada, Ridsdale polled 80 participants, including environmental consultants, government officials, several lawyers and financiers.

Eighty-five per cent of those polled said brownfields were a medium to high priority in their organization.

She said 59 of the 80 respondents indicated Canada would benefit from a national fund for brownfield redevelopment. The top three developmental barriers indicated by respondents deal with remediation costs and lack of information available on site conditions, Ridsdale said.

The survey also supported the CBN as a national organization but some respondents were negative because the CBN does not receive federal funding so its scope is limited.

“We are a little bit eastern-centric,” which is probably because of the lack of funding, Ridsdale told delegates, adding the survey results will be published as part of a white paper this summer.

Angus Ross, chairman of L and A Concepts, chaired two government task forces on brownfields, including one that created the National Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy for Canada in 2003. The findings were not the last word on brownfields “but they did a tremendous job in kickstarting the entire brownfield file in Canada,” he said.

Ross, who was appointed by the federal government in 1996 to head the NRTEE and in 2004 to chair the CBN’s advisory panel, said brownfields became “a household word” in the early 2000s through media reports on the NRTEE.

“We got very immediate provincial and municipal buy-in,” he told delegates at the conference.

Hamilton Waterfront